Though they just finished off the Capitals two nights ago in a thrilling 2-1 Game 7 victory, the Rangers were back at The Garden Monday for their morning skate, warming up for this evening's first game of their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Devils.
All healthy Rangers---including Mats Zuccarello, who is unable to play as he rehabs his injured wrist---took part in the skate, and no lineup changes are expected for tonight's clash with the Devils. While the Rangers skated at The Garden, the Devils held their morning skate in New Jersey, with plans to bus into the city afterwards.
Much is being made of the fierce rivalry between the Rangers and Devils, and how that will spill over into this series. Rangers winger Mike Rupp---who won a Stanley Cup championship with New Jersey in 2003---said on Monday that there is too much at stake in this series for either team to get too caught up in the fact they are playing a bitter rival.
"I think maybe in the first round the rivalry takes over, but now you're four wins away from getting to where you've been working so hard to get to as a team, so it doesn't come into play really," explained Rupp. "I don't look at it right now as me having played for them or them being one of our biggest rivals, I think all of that is kind of non-existant right now. Right now is about winning hockey games, and it doesn't matter who it is against."
A common theme in the Rangers dressing room this morning is one that was voiced by head coach John Tortorella on Sunday: that the team should be proud of what it has accomplished, so far, in the post-season, but there is still much work to be done to achieve the ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup.
"The fact that when you sit back and see that there are just four teams left, on one side of it you are halfway there, but there is still a lot fo work to be done," said Rupp. "You need to seize that moment and know that there are four teams left and you are one of them, so that is an opportunity for us, and we're excited for it."
As for the outside ramifications of this Bridge and Tunnel series, the fact is not lost on the Rangers that this is a great way to grow the game in New York and New Jersey.
"I think it's great for the city, and the entire area," noted Ryan McDonagh this morning. "It's special to be a part of this."