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Panarin practices, will play for Rangers in Game 1 against Penguins

New York's leading scorer missed last two regular-season games with upper-body injury; Copp to also return

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Artemi Panarin practiced Sunday and the New York Rangers forward said he is ready to go for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Panarin missed the last two games of the regular season because of an upper-body injury. He said he sat out as a precaution with the Rangers having already clinched a playoff berth and that he feels the best he has felt all season..

The Rangers play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS, MSG, ATTSN-PT).

Panarin led the Rangers with 96 points (22 goals, 74 assists) in 75 games.

"Ready to go, excited, two more days," Panarin said. "Emotions are pretty high and just excited. Of course, if everything is right in your head your body is feeling better. If you almost cry, probably pain."


[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Penguins series coverage]


Panarin said the Rangers are in a good place mentally as they prepare for Game 1.

"I think just have to do everything the same like we do all year, in the locker room, at home, everywhere," he said. "Usually in the playoffs it's hard to control your emotions, like your nervous a lot and mistakes [happen], all that stuff. I think winners can control emotions and do everything that they do before. I hope we can do this. I'm sure we can do this."

He said he doesn't sense anybody is nervous.

"We have a good team," Panarin said. "Everybody supports. But we don't have to support anybody now because everybody feels OK. Just excited. It's the most important month, two months in the year."

That the Penguins have more playoff experience is not a factor either, Panarin said.

Pittsburgh is in the playoffs for a 16th straight season. Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust along with defensemen Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel all remain from the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2017.

The Rangers are playing in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The only players remaining from that team are forwards Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.

They played in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers but were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in three games, all played without fans at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

"We honestly don't think about that," Panarin said. "We respect them, but I don't know, we're just focused on our game and we have the confidence in our game. Our young guys they have the experience already from the season. Should be OK.

"Everybody is ready to go and excited. Good emotions. Good mood."

Andrew Copp also returned to practice and will play in Game 1 against Pittsburgh after the forward missed the last two games and three of the past four with a lower-body injury.

Copp had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 16 games after the Rangers acquired him in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on March 21. He plays on the same line as Panarin and center Ryan Strome.

"It was not a severe injury by any means, but it definitely felt like it was time to take a little time to make sure everything was good to go for Game 1," Copp said. "Just kind of champing at the bit a little bit."

Ryan Lindgren (maintenance) did not skate Sunday, returned to practice Monday and is expected to play when the series against the Penguins begins Tuesday.

Gallant said forward Tyler Motte (upper-body injury) hasn't been ruled out for first round even though he's not yet skating. Motte missed the last 10 games after he was injured in New York's 3-0 win against the Penguins on April 7.

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