New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Game One, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Where To Watch: MSG Network
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio, and newyorkrangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 6:45 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
The most highly-anticipated NHL post-season in recent memory for the Blueshirts Faithful gets underway tonight at Madison Square Garden when the Rangers (51-24-7, 109 pts), the top seed in the Eastern Conference, host the eighth-place Ottawa Senators (41-31-10, 92 pts) in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Tonight will mark the first time the Rangers have opened a playoff series on home ice since the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens---a series the Rangers won in six games despite losing the opening two games at The Garden. It is also the first time since the Stanley Cup-winning season of 1993-94 in which the Blueshirts have entered the post-season as a No. 1 seed. The Rangers earned these distinctions this year with a season for the ages that saw them win 51 games and accumulate 109 points---both second most in franchise history. And the Rangers arrive at the post-season having played a distinct playoff-style hockey, one that saw them lead the NHL in hits with 2,419, rank third-best in goals against average (2.22), and fourth with 1,338 blocked shots. They will also enter the playoffs mostly healthy, missing only forward Mats Zuccarello---who is sidelined with a fractured wrist, and defensemen Michael Sauer---who has been out since December with a concussion---and Steve Eminger---who is on the shelf with a sore ankle. Ottawa briefly challenged Boston for first place in the Northeast Division before stumbling into eighth place in the conference by losing six of their last nine games---including their last three. However they have a potent offense, one that scored 249 goals---fourth-most in the East---led by Milan Michalek's career-best 35 and Jason Spezza's career-high-tying 34. In addition Ottawa's 21 year-old All Star Erik Karlsson led all NHL defensemen with 78 points this season. The Sens team defense, though, struggled this season, surrendering 2.88 goals per game, the seventh-worst average in the NHL.
The Rangers and Senators will be meeting in their first-ever post-season series. Back in 1930 the Rangers and the "old" Ottawa Senators did play a two-game, total goals, series won by the Blueshirts. The Rangers were 1-2-1 against the Senators during the 2011-12 regular season, including an 0-1-1 mark at Madison Square Garden. On October 29th Ottawa erased a 4-1 third-period Rangers lead en-route to a 5-4 overtime victory at The Garden. Brad Richards scored twice for the Rangers while Jason Spezza tallied a pair for Ottawa, which also received the game-tying goal with 2:50 to play in regulation and the shootout winner from Milan Michalek. On January 12th in New York the Senators shut out the Rangers 3-0 behind Craig Anderson's 34 saves as Jason Spezza again scored twice. The Rangers were outscored by the Senators 13-9 in four games this season.
"They're a good team. They have a lot of talent up front and are really good on the power play (Craig) Anderson is a good goalie. The games we have played against them have been close, so it's not like we feel down going into this or anything. All year long, though, we have gone about our business and not worried about what's going on outside. We've done a good job with that with all the things we've gone through, and it's going to be the same here in the playoffs."-Ryan Callahan
By The Numbers
The Rangers have six players on their playoff roster who have never appeared in an NHL post-season contest---defensemen Michael Del Zotto, Stu Bickel, and Anton Stralman, and forwards Carl Hagelin, John Mitchell, and Chris Kreider.
The Senators have two players who both have more than 100 games of NHL playoff experience---Sergei Gonchar (118) and Daniel Alfredsson (107). Ruslan Fedotenko has appeared in the most career playoff games of any Ranger (88) while winning two Stanley Cups.
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