In the first round, the Rangers battled back from a 3-2 series deficit against Ottawa. Tonight, they’ll be the team seeking to close out an opponent in Game 6.
But don’t expect their approach to change, Henrik Lundqvist said after a loose morning skate at Verizon Center.
“We talked about [it] last game, not to change our approach,” the veteran goalie said. “Personally, I’m going into this game with the same feeling I’ve had [before] each game in these playoffs. I don’t want to change anything.”
New York had full attendance for the skate, with the exception of forward Brandon Dubinsky, who has missed five games with a lower leg injury and won’t play. Mats Zuccarello, meantime, practiced with his teammates but is not expected to return from a fractured left wrist this series.
In the Rangers’ room, the message did not change. The key, many players said, will be keeping their emotions in check and avoiding the urge to look ahead.
If they do close out the Caps, they'll advance to the franchise's first Eastern Conference finals since 1997 and face their rivals across the Hudson River, the New Jersey Devils.
“We know they are going to come hard, but they have been playing hard every game,” Lundqvist added. “You want to approach this game the same way. You don’t want to look beyond these 60 minutes, or whatever it will be tonight. Just go out there and try to play our game. Don’t think about the consequence or the results, whether it’s the next round or another game. We don’t think about that.”
A few feet way, winger Ruslan Fedotenko echoed the goalie’s sentiment. And if anyone should know how to handle himself in this situation, it's Fedotenko, who has missed the playoffs only once in his 12-season NHL career, and captured the Stanley Cup twice (with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh).
“For me, it’s easy to control [my emotions],” Fedotenko said. “I focus on the bigger picture. Whatever happens, you deal with it.”
As for what Fedotenko expects from the Caps, he said: “It’s do or die. The other team is desperate. It’s the desperation they have. It’s always the hardest game to win—for both teams, for the team who is trying to close it out and the team who could be closed out. That’s the biggest game for everybody.”
Asked if the challenge will be surviving the Caps’ first period push, Fedotenko bristled at the suggestion.
“I feel like we should initiate and just go for it,” he said, “not sit and weather anything. I don’t think so, we need to sit back and see what Washington is going to do.”
More on the Capitals:
— Ovechkin: ‘We just can’t go home right now’
— Hunter: Beagle is ‘fine, he’s gonna play’
— Caps look to stave off elimination
— Jay Beagle: Can’t dwell on Game 5
— Ovechkin held without a shot in Game 5