Only a handful of Rangers took part in the afternoon on-ice optional practice at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, with most working out off-ice following team meetings and video sessions.
Defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh both opted out of the on-ice practice, and both held press conferences attended by local and national media at The Garden (videos of both press conferences will be available on BlueshirtsUnited.com by late afternoon Tuesday). The top-pair defensemen have clearly gained much more attention now that the Rangers are on the big stage of the Eastern Conference Finals, and both handled themselves admirably in the spotlight on Tuesday.
"It's been great," McDonagh said of playing alongside Girardi this season. "If I make mistakes, Danny is great at covering for me by blocking a shot or disrupting an odd-man rush. He just gives (me) that much more confidence to join the rush and to make plays. I also have learned a lot from him in how mentally tough he is, the grind he goes through and the hits that he takes. He's such a leader in that aspect, and it's an area I am trying to get involved in."
Both players discussed their growing personal retationship, as well as their on-ice partnership.
"On the road we always go out to dinner, it's always a big group of us anyway," explained Girardi. "Especially this year he's come over to my house a little bit more, play with my son and stuff like that. And i think that's part of the reason why we are doing so well, we're good friends off the ice, which makes it easier on the ice."
Rangers head coach John Tortorella heaped praise on both Girardi and McDonagh, and concluded by saying, "I'm not sure we'll ever break them up."
The other main topic of conversation on Tuesday was the Rangers desire to break form from teh first two playoff rounds by winning Game 2 against the Devils, and actually secure a two-game lead in the series---something they have yet to do in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Several players said this was a main point of emphasis in their meetings on Tuesday.
"We definitely want it," team captain Ryan Callahan said of trying to move ahead 2-0 in this series against New Jersey. "We know the last two series we kind of let up that second game or haven't won that second game. So we are putting a lot of emphasis on tomorrow night's game and trying to get that two-game lead, especially at home, too. We want to get as many home wins as we can in the playoffs."
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Rangers and Devils takes place Wednesday night, 8:00 PM, at Madison Square Garden.