The Rangers held an optional morning skate Thursday at Madison Square Garden, their final preparation for Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators which gets underway tonight.
A relaxed John Tortorella met with the media after the skate and announced that he would not make any lineup changes for Game One, meaning that Steve Eminger remains out with an ankle injury, and that John Scott, Jeff Woywitka, and just-signed rookie Chris Kreider will be healthy scratches.
Tortorella also explained that he stopped practice Wednesday earlier than planned because "I think they are just ready to play." Brian Boyle added that, personally, he is "jacked up" to get going tonight, and that he feels the team "has been champing at the bit for a while" to start the playoffs.
As a large media contingent swarmed the Rangers dressing room Thursday morning at The Garden, very few players remained in the locker room, opting instead to shower, leave quickly, and begin to prepare on their own for this evening's opener with Ottawa.
One player who did meet with the media was alternate captain Brad Richards, who has not played in the post-season since 2008.
"It's been like Christmas this whole week for me," said Richards. "I am just so excited. It's been a few years since I played in that Western Conference Final (with Dallas in 2008), and you don't realize just how much you miss it (being in the playoffs) until you're here, back in it. I can't wait to get started."
Kreider also spoke with the media following his first skate at The Garden since signing his entry-level contract on Tuesday. The rookie called being at The Garden as a Ranger "surreal", and said that he planned to watch "the team structure...how the team plays" very closely tonight.
"I was also told to watch Carl Hagelin and how he plays pretty closely tonight," added Kreider. "Watch how he handles the puck and the energy he brings to the game."
Ottawa is healthy heading into Game One against the Rangers tonight. Rugged winger Chris Neil, who missed the regular season finale due to injury, will be able to play this evening.
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