Mika Zibanejad knew a postseason meeting with his former team, the Ottawa Senators, could happen when the Rangers moved into the Atlantic Division bracket.
"When I saw the schedule and I saw the playoff tree, I knew it was a possibility that it was going to be them," Zibanejad said following the Rangers' practice on Tuesday as the team began its on-ice preparation for the Senators. "It's like any other team now and I just want to get to four first."
Zibanejad said he knew the questions about facing his former team would come once the Senators defeated the Boston Bruins on Sunday to set up their second round matchup with the Rangers.
But the trade that brought him to New York was nine months ago. He's a Ranger now and his only focus is getting New York through the Eastern Conference Final.
"For me, it's just winning this series," said Zibanejad, who led New York with a goal and three assists in the six-game series win over Montreal. "Taking a game a time and winning. It's all about the team right now. I knew it was going to come up and be brought up a lot, but for me, try and just win."
The 24-year-old is familiar with many players on Ottawa's roster after he spent the first five seasons of his NHL career with the Senators. And while he did not play under current coach Guy Boucher, Zibanejad knows what to expect from his former squad once the puck drops Thursday night.
"They're good at frustrating the other team," said Zibanejad, who scored in the team's only game in Ottawa this year. "We've got to make sure we stay calm and stick to what we do best."
Coach Alain Vigneault said he spoke with Zibanejad prior to Tuesday's practice to make sure the center was "in the right place." He said often players try and put "too much pressure" on themselves to perform against their former clubs.
Vigneault, though, wants Zibanejad to carry over the strong play Zibanejad displayed against Montreal in the opening-round.
"He's in a good spot. He's in a good place," Vigneault said. "He's got to go out there and do what he did in the last four games against Montreal. Just play. Make the plays, skate with the puck, have fun with it and if he does, he's going to be fine."