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Rangers can draw on season's worth of experiences

by Dan Rosen /

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers started their year with a two-week, four-country tour of Europe that included back-to-back regular season games in Stockholm. They welcomed the HBO cameras into their lives for a five-week invasion of privacy that was so well-documented in the "24/7" documentary series.

They then played and won the most hyped regular-season game in the NHL season, the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic, in Philadelphia. They followed that up by holding off the surging Penguins and Flyers to win the Atlantic Division and capture the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

If that wasn't enough, with their season on the line Monday in Ottawa, the Rangers came back from a 1-0 deficit by scoring three times over the final 11:05 of the second period to stay alive with a 3-2 win.

It's all led to Thursday, to Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden, the first Game 7 at the old building in midtown Manhattan since the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.

No, the Rangers will not be thinking about all they went through together as a team this season, but yes, they do believe the experiences matter heading into the most important and potentially the last game of their season.


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"I think we learned a lot from Winter Classic and can probably take parts of that experience into games like this," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "You realize you don't have to do more just because it's a more important game. You try to play it the same way and you try to approach it the same way, even though that's tough. But that's the big thing you take out of experiences like that, you realize it's the same game. Even though there is more pressure and more hype, you just try to do the same things you always do."

The Rangers never changed their routine in Europe despite all the travel from Philadelphia to the Czech Republic to Sweden to Slovakia to Switzerland and finally back to Sweden to open the season with back-to-back games against the Kings and Ducks.

They didn't change when they went on a four-game road trip out west one week after returning from Europe. Their mindset of living in the moment, focusing on what they can control, forgetting about the opponent and centering their attention solely on themselves was there the entire time -- a single-mindedness almost forced upon them by coach John Tortorella.

It stayed while the HBO cameras were a part of their lives from late November through early January. The Winter Classic did not become a focus until it was the next game on the schedule.

"Torts has really instilled in us trying to focus our efforts and energies on a day-to-day basis," Brandon Dubinsky said. "As far as we're concerned, all of that is last season. We're in a new season now. We have to make sure we come to the rink (Thursday) and make sure we're ready to play our game."

Brad Richards said the Winter Classic experience in particular will help the Rangers be ready to play Game 7 against the Senators.

"The Winter Classic was a great stage for us and this Game 7 will probably feel a lot like that," said Richards, a veteran of two Game 7s, both wins during his run with Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup championship in 2004. "There will be more at stake, but it'll have that all-day, thinking about it, can't wait to get going feeling. That will be something guys can draw on."

That, and the camaraderie and character they built as a team during their experiences together this season, said defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

"We've gone through a lot. It's brought our team closer," Del Zotto added. "Every time we've had a big game or a big moment, we've stepped up and responded to the occasion. Last game was an example and (Thursday) night is going to be another one. Everyone is excited in here. We've gone through a lot this year as far as HBO, going to Europe, Winter Classic, and it's just another step here (Thursday) night."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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