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5 Keys: Rangers at Senators, Game 1

Matchup between New York forward Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa center Derick Brassard could play role in second-round series opener

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent

RANGERS at SENATORS

7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports

Eastern Conference Second Round, Game 1

 

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators the New York Rangers open their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.

In the first round the Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games. The Senators defeated the Boston Bruins in six games, with four going to overtime.

It's the second time the teams have played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers won in seven games in the second round in 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The Rangers are 10-4-1 in their past 15 regular-season games at Canadian Tire Centre.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:

 

1. Rangers must slow Erik Karlsson

Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson was involved in six of Ottawa's 15 goals in the first round, and three of his six assists were highlight-reel quality. Despite playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, Karlsson took over the games against the Bruins at times. The Rangers will have to pressure Karlsson and attempt to get hits on him to reduce his impact on the game. "If they want to put more focus on me that's going to be better," Karlsson said. "We've got a good team here. It's going to open a lot more space for anybody else to do things and that's just going to be a good thing."

Video: OTT@BOS, GM 4: Ryan nets Karlsson's perfect pass

 

2. Derick Brassard vs. Mika Zibanejad

The Rangers traded forward Derick Brassard to the Senators for forward Mika Zibanejad on July 18. After so-so regular seasons for each, they led their teams in scoring in the first round, Brassard with eight points (two goals, six assists) for the Senators and Zibanejad with four points (one goal, three assists) for the Rangers. There will be a lot of people looking at this series as a referendum on the trade. Brassard has continued to augment his reputation as a playoff performer; Zibanejad scored an overtime goal against the Canadiens in Game 5. The player who wins this matchup could go a long way toward helping his team win this series.

Video: How do the New York Rangers slow down Erik Karlsson

 

3. Defending the crease

The Rangers' forwards, particularly Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, took the puck hard to the net against Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. Ottawa's defensemen are going to have to block that path and box those players out to make life easier for goaltender Craig Anderson "That's what the playoffs are about," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "Everybody wants to get to the net because that's where it pays off. There's rarely some nice goals. They're usually ugly goals. … We need to have our players around their goalie and they need to have their players around ours. I'm not expecting anything different."

Video: OTT@BOS, Gm6: Anderson denies a redirection by Nash

 

4. Senators must deal with Rangers depth

The Rangers are going to present a much deeper roster than the Bruins, who, at one point in the first round because of injuries were dressing their 10th defenseman. The Rangers are healthy, deep and fast. "They've got a ton of depth," Senators forward Clarke MacArthur said. "They've got [Michael] Grabner on the fourth line and I think he had 30 goals [actually 27]. A ton of speed up front, really solid defensive group, they're healthy. And then they've got the goaltender [Henrik Lundqvist] to go with it. They've got a solid team over there. We're going to have to have our best game to have a chance."

Video: Rosen previews Rangers vs. Senators matchup 

 

5. Mark Stone, Kyle Turris must score

Senators forwards Mark Stone and Kyle Turris scored one goal apiece during the first round. Turris led the Senators in goals in the regular season with 27 and Stone was third with 22. The Senators got some unexpected scoring during the first round from Bobby Ryan, who had four goals against the Bruins, and MacArthur, who scored two, including his first goal in almost two years because of concussion issues. The Senators' chances of defeating the Rangers will increase greatly if Stone and Turris can generate more offense.

Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Stone converts on a breakaway in 1st

 

Rangers projected lineup

Jimmy Vesey -- Derek Stepan -- Rick Nash

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Pavel Buchnevich

J.T. Miller -- Kevin Hayes -- Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner -- Oscar Lindberg -- Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh -- Dan Girardi

Marc Staal -- Nick Holden

Brady Skjei -- Brendan Smith

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Adam Clendening, Kevin Klein, Matt Puempel, Steven Kampfer, Brandon Pirri, Tanner Glass

Injured: None

 

Senators projected lineup

Ryan Dzingel -- Kyle Turris -- Alexandre Burrows

Clarke MacArthur -- Derick Brassard -- Bobby Ryan

Mike Hoffman -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Mark Stone

Viktor Stalberg -- Zack Smith -- Tommy Wingels

Marc Methot -- Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf -- Cody Ceci

Fredrik Claesson -- Ben Harpur

Craig Anderson

Mike Condon

Scratched: Chris Kelly, Chris Wideman, Chris Neil, Colin White, Jyrki Jokipakka, Christopher DiDomenico

Injured: Mark Borowiecki (lower body), Tom Pyatt (lower body)

 

Status report

Boucher said Pyatt, who was injured early in Game 4 against the Bruins, will be a game-time decision, and that Pyatt is dealing with upper- and lower-body injuries; it is the lower-body injury that will determine his readiness to play Thursday. … The Rangers did not hold a morning skate.

 

Who's hot

Zuccarello led the Rangers with three goals in six first-round games. Nash has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his past 15 playoff games. Lundqvist allowed 11 goals in the six-game series against Montreal. … Ryan has seven points (four goals, three assists) in six games. Anderson allowed 13 goals against the Bruins.

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