OTTAWA - After two days of rest and two days of practice, the Rangers begin their second round series with the Senators tonight in Ottawa.
Now, the fun begins.
"It's very exciting," said Rick Nash on Wednesday. "We've had a little break here but all the guys are antsy to get it going."
The Rangers are hoping to carry the momentum from three straight wins to close out the Montreal Canadiens in the first round into this round against a strong, defensive-minded Senators squad that does a good job of clogging the neutral zone and feeds off opponents' turnovers.
"They're a tough team to play against," Nash said. "You know their coaching style, you know they're going to trap it up in the neutral zone. We've got to try to limit our mistakes through there and try and get the puck deep."
In addition to coach Guy Boucher's defensive system, the Senators are also packed with talent, led by Bobby Ryan and former Ranger Derick Brassard. Ryan had four goals in Ottawa's series against Boston, including a pair of game-winners, while Brassard had eight points, including four on the power play.
And of course, there's Erik Karlsson on the blueline, who racked up 71 points in 77 games this season and had six assists against the Bruins while averaging 30:24 of ice time.
"He's a special player and a challenge every time you play against him," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said of Karlsson. "He plays a ton of minutes for them in every situation, so when he's out there we have to be aware of it. Try and make it as difficult as you can on him. He's one of those special guys that can make everyone else on the ice really good too."
The Rangers, though, said they must stick to the game that got them here. While they're aware of what has made Ottawa successful, they know how effective they can be when they stick to their structure.
"We just have to find a way. We have to play our game and go from there," Mats Zuccarello said. "Either way, we have to try and play our way and stick to what we've been doing."
Ottawa's season has been overshadowed at times by the adversity several of its players have endured away from the game.
Goaltender Craig Anderson's wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer at the start of the season, and forward Clarke MacArthur missed nearly the last two seasons with multiple concussions before returning to the lineup towards the end of the regular season.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said had Ottawa been healthy, there's a good chance they could have been battling Washington for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
"They finished the year with 98 points. If they didn't have [that adversity] they probably in my mind, with the talent that's on that team would have probably challenged for first in the conference," Vigneault said. "So now they're all fairly healthy and we've got a huge challenge in front of us."