Only twelve players took part in the Rangers optional morning skate at TD Garden before Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals tonight against the Boston Bruins. Among those who did participate was starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who told reporters afterwards that after two days off he is primed and ready to start this second-round series.
"I think we have two teams that are excited to be here, and a lot of excited players ready to get it going tonight," said Lundqvist. "We have to prove ourselves again now. It's about going out there and executing tonight, not about what we did last week or a couple of days ago. I can't wait to get it going."
Both the Rangers and Bruins are a bit dinged up heading into this semifinal series. Marc Staal, Ryane Clowe, and Darroll Powe will all not play once again for the Blueshirts in Game One this evening, and none of the three took part in the morning skate. Staal, who had been considered the healthiest of the three, did not take part in Wednesday's practice back in New York either.
As for Boston, defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ferrence, and Wade Redden are all hurt, and very likely all three will not play this evening, according to Bruins head coach Claude Julien. In addition, Brad Marchand---Boston's top goal scorer (18) and point producer (36) in the regular season---left the Bruins morning skate early on Thursday after pulling up lame during a rush.
"Brad is going to be okay," Julien stated after the skate. "You'll see him on the ice tonight."
Much of the pre-series discussion has revolved around how physical a series this is expected to be, especially considering how similarly the Rangers and Bruins play.
"They're a straightline team and they're going to make you pay a price," explained defenseman John Moore after the morning skate. "It's going to be a man's game this whole series. You're going to have to battle for every inch of ice. You see a lot of similarities in how they play and their systems, compared to us. I expect a lot of intensity out there."
Both teams are coming of scintillating finishes in their first round series. The Rangers, of course, stared down elimination in winning Game Six against the Capitals at home and Game Seven on the road, with Lundqvist earning shutouts in both matches. The Bruins rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit in Game Seven to eventually beat the Maple Leafs in overtime in historic fashion.
"I thought we got better through the seven (games), and it was fortunate for us that Game Seven was our best game," explained Rangers head coach John Tortorella this morning. "I'm not sure if that brings it in to Game One here, but I feel good about the team."
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan stated that he is not sure what carries over from one series to another other than confidence built up from the team's strong finish to the first round.
"I think confidence is definitely something that carries over from game to game and can carry over from series to series," Callahan said. "We showed resilience and character to come back there---a lot of people had counted us out---and we stuck together in the room and that wsa another important aspect of us coming back, that believing in each other."
In the other dressing room down the hall, many Bruins players stated that there is little carryover from their emotional and thrilling Game Seven victory---echoing Brian Boyle's comment from Wednesday that "the slate is clean...this is a new series".
"I have turned the page, it's a new series and a new season," explained Boston's David Krejci, who leads the NHL with 13 post-season points.
Added Bruins young stud Tyler Seguin, "You try and take that momentum, but our team does well and succeeds when we take an even keel, lose or win. It's a fresh start for everybody."