NEW YORK -- Mike Rupp has experienced the Rangers-Devils rivalry from both sides of the Hudson River, and he distinctly remembers the first time he realized how heated it was as a rookie in New Jersey even before playing against New York.
Rupp scored two goals in his first NHL game on Jan. 13, 2003, against the Florida Panthers at Continental Airlines Arena, but he immediately picked up on how much Devils fans hated the Rangers during that contest.
"I just remember the chants when I was playing in New Jersey, the old famous chant when you're playing the Florida Panthers and they're saying, "Rangers (stink)!" Rupp said. "That's the one thing I remember the most, so I thought there must be something to it. It's obviously something special."
Rupp signed with the Rangers this past summer and has experienced six games from the other side of the rivalry this season. He'll take part in a seventh Monday when the Rangers and Devils open their Eastern Conference Finals series at Madison Square Garden.
The 32-year-old enforcer, just like every player who will lace up the skates for this series, said while it's fun for the fans, the opposition doesn't matter when a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line.
"I don't know. I think if you were facing them in the first round, maybe it would feel more like it, if that makes sense," Rupp said. "Right now, we're four wins away from getting to where you've been working so hard to get to as a team. I don't really think about that. I really don't. I don't look at them as me playing for them or one of our biggest rivals. That's kind of nonexistent right now. Now it's about winning hockey games. It doesn't matter who it's against."
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