While the local Ottawa newspapers and television stations have been reporting about the bad blood between the Rangers and Senators from last spring's first-round playoff series, and how the Sens greatly want to exact some revenge for their seven-game defeat with a victory tonight, players from both teams expressed after the morning skate Thursday at Scotiabank Place that the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is a thing of the past.
But while the words said one thing, the intense and determined looks on many of the Rangers and Senators players said that there is a little bit more to this evening's first match-up since that playoff series ten months ago.
"As intense a series we had with them, I think it's going to be a hard game (tonight) but I don't think any of that bad blood or battles from that series will carry over," downplayed Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
Added Henrik Lundqvist, "Last year I don't even think it was about bad blood, it was just a great series. I expect it to be a tough game for us (tonight). It's a great challenge for us to get a big win here because obviously they are playing well."
Rangers center Brian Boyle was besieged by the Ottawa media following the morning skate, but he was mum when the names of Matt Carkner and Chris Neil were mentioned. Boyle declined to comment on his feelings returning to Ottawa or about how he was jumped by Carkner---now an Islander---in that series last spring or about how Neil concussed him with a hit during that first-round get together.
Brad Richards noted that there would be memories from last spring going through his head when he takes to the ice this evening, but he said he would imagine both teams "have moved on" from the rangers seven-game series victory.
In the Ottawa dressing room, the gap-toothed Neil said, "They went on and we didn't, but that's over. It's a new year and we are still trying to climb the ladder."
When asked if he thought the Rangers might seek out some retribution against him for the hit on Boyle, Neil smiled and said, "I feed off that kind of stuff."
As for the Rangers lineup this evening, head coach John Tortorella would not say what his plans are. Rick Nash and Darroll Powe both did not make the trip and will not play tonight. Interestingly Stu Bickel wore a blue jersey assigned to the forwards this morning, springing speculation that he may play on the fourth line this evening even though Tortorella did praise rookie Brandon Mashinter for how he played in his Blueshirts debut Tuesday night against the Canadiens.
Lundqvist will make his 14th start of the season in goal, and will be opposed by Craig Anderson who currently leads the NHL with a 1.57 goals against average and a .950 save percentage.
So do you buy what the players are saying this morning? Or do you expect bad blood to spill over in tonight's game? Share your comments below.