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Series Shifts Back to The Garden

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

After two games in Pittsburgh followed by a pair of days back in New York, the Rangers are more than ready to get the home portion of this opening-round series against the Penguins underway.

"We're all really excited," Henrik Lundqvist said Monday at practice. "Playoff hockey at home in New York is a great feeling. Every time you go out there it's goosebumps. You're excited, nervous. You just want to go out there and win. Winning at home is the best feeling, especially in the playoffs."

The Rangers did a lot of winning at The Garden this year, to the tune of 27 victories on home ice, which was just two off Washington's NHL-best 29. Individually as well, several players found great success at the friendly confines of The World's Most Famous Arena in 2015-16.

Forward Derick Brassard notched 41 of his 58 points this season at home, while Mats Zuccarello had 37 of his 61 at home.

"The crowd and the atmosphere is obviously going to give us some good energy," Brassard said this morning. "We're going to be ready from the puck drop at 7 o'clock. We're just excited to be here. We had two days again to rest up so there should be no excuse for our team not to be ready.

"We're excited to be here," Brassard continued. "It's really nice outside right now. It's playoff time. I expect a lot of emotion from the players and from our team tonight, but at the same time, we have to manage it the right way."

Tonight will be the 45 home playoff game for defenseman Marc Staal. Despite all the experience, it's still the most exciting time of the season.

"Playoff time at The Garden is always a lot of fun," Staal said. "It's always exciting. We're excited to be be back here and get it started. It should be a great environment and we're pretty pumped up to get it going."

While he may not call MSG home anymore, Penguins forward Carl Hagelin knows as well as anyone what playing games in April, May and June in New York City is all about.

"It's definitely going to be exciting," Hagelin said Tuesday. "It's a great arena to play in, especially playoff hockey. The fans get into it and some of my best hockey memories are in this arena in the playoffs. It'll definitely be fun. I love playing here."

Hagelin appeared in 73 playoff games for New York between 2012 and 2015. Could he pick a favorite?

"There's a lot of them," he said with a smile. "It's hard to say. There's so many games, but any time you can win a Game 7. I think one of those Game 7 wins would definitely be the best feeling. Or when we beat Montreal in Game 6 to move onto the Final [in 2014]."

How about last year's overtime-winner against Pittsburgh in Game 5?

"That was a big one too, at the time."

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