New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Seven (Series Tied 3-3)
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 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Rangers and Senators has been played so evenly on every level that it should come as no surprise it will take a decisive do-or-die seventh game to determine a series winner. And that's exactly what will take place Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers forced Game 7 by staring down elimination on the road and beating Ottawa 3-2 Monday night in Game 6. And now the home-ice advantage the Blueshirts earned with a hard-fought 51 wins and 109 points in the regular season will come into play. However the Senators have won twice in three tries on Garden ice during this series, after beating the Rangers two other times at MSG during the regular season, and will enter Game 7 full of confidence. Through six games both teams have scored 12 goals, each team has won a pair of one-goal games, and each has one victory with a two-goal cushion. And that just scratches the surface as to how evenly played this series has been. The Rangers will likely play a second straight game without Brian Boyle, whose three goals leads the team in this series, but who sat out Game 6 with a concussion. Boyle was at the MSG Training Center on Wednesday, but did not practice with his teammates. Also, Ryan Callahan did not practice Thursday, though head coach John Tortorella believes his captain will be in the lineup for Game 7. Ottawa will once again be missing the injured Jesse Winchester, while team captain Daniel Alfredsson---who returned from a concussion in Game 6---will again be in the lineup.
Rangers-Henrik Lundqvist: In what is the biggest game of the season the Rangers will play so far this year their most important player remains the one who has been the most important player since Day One: Henrik Lundqvist. He has had a tremendous series, so far, and will need to be at his best again tonight as both teams will be at their most desperate best. This is the biggest and most important game Lundqvist has played in seven years as a Ranger, and it would be hard to imagine he will not meet the challenge after waiting so long for this opportunity.
Senators-Erik Karlsson: Except for a flukey goal off the skate of Michael Del Zotto in Game 2, Karlsson has been held off the scoresheet by the Rangers in the first six games of this series. Karlsson has been on the receiving end of one hit after another from the Rangers and could be wearing down a bit, though he has had some strong efforts, as well. Still it would be hard to imagine Ottawa advancing if Karlsson---the NHL's top-scoring defenseman in the regular season by a wide margin---does not contribute in a big way in Game 7.
"It's a great day (playing game 7). It's a great day in your life to wake up and know that everybody is watching. It's do or die. We'll be ready."-Brad Richards
The Rangers are 3-5 all-time in playoff Game Sevens, including a loss in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals when the Capitals beat them 2-1 in Washington. However, the Blueshirts are 3-0 playing Game 7 at Madison Square Garden---beating New Jersey in the first round in 1992, New Jersey again in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, and Vancouver in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Senators have played four playoff Game Sevens in their history, losing all four games. In fact, the Sens were ousted from the playoffs three straight years between 2002 and 2004 by virtue of losing Game 7 each season.
Plain and simple: do the Rangers win and advance tonight, or do they lose and call an end to their special season? Share your prediction below.