Rangers winger Mike Rupp leaned back in his locker stall this morning, answering every question fired in his direction.
He hardly changed his tone of voice.
If anyone in New York’s dressing room knows how to handle his emotions before a Game 7, it’s Rupp. The 32-year-old will suit up for his sixth such contest tonight when the Rangers host the Capitals. Only teammate Ruslan Fedotenko has played in as many Game 7s as Rupp.
“I heard one the guys talking yesterday about it being one of those special days,” Rupp said. “I don’t know, it just feels different. Like it’s a birthday or something, just a special day on the calendar. That’s what it is. It’s not just an ordinary game. You approach it the same way, but we all know what a special night and opportunity it is for players to play in a Game 7.”
The demeanor of the Rangers, from the Madison Square Garden stands, at least, sounded and looked more businesslike than light. But Rupp said he liked his team’s mood.
“I think it’s important to be loose and joking around,” Rupp said. “Our team has a lot of that going on. I found when I was younger to kind of gauge off the older guys and how relaxed they were. I think you could go out and be too fired up. So you have to channel that in a certain way.”
Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist did not take part in the optional skate. Brandon Dubinsky (right ankle/foot) and Mats Zuccarello (left wrist) will not play.
Based on Friday’s practice, the tweaked New York forward lines could look something like this:
Rookie Chris Kreider, after being demoted to the fourth line, returned to the second unit as New York continues to seek offense. Of the Rangers’ 13 goals this series, only nine have come at even strength.
Some other notes from the Rangers’ perspective:
*Lundqvist has been mostly brilliant in these playoffs. Since 2009, though, he’s had four chances to eliminate the Caps and is 0-4 in those opportunities.
*Fedotenko, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, is 5-0 all time in Game 7s and has scored three goals in those contests.
*The Rangers are 4-5 in all-time Game 7s in franchise history, including a 4-0 mark at the Garden.
*Asked how he intends to strike a balance between preparing for the game and not getting overly excited, John Mitchell said: “I don’t know. Obviously you want to think about the game. But in a sense that maybe you don’t want to think about it that, ‘Oh this is Game 7, oh, this is do-or-die.’ You already know that. At the same time, you don’t want to make yourself a nervous wreck. Just come prepared to the game just like it’s any other day and just another game. Hopefully your nerves aren’t too high-strung.”
See, fans aren’t the only people freaking out.
More on the Capitals:
— Recipe for a playoffs pressure cooker
— Power play critical to Caps’ victories
— Beagle misses practice; status unclear
— Holtby talks about being a new dad
— Wise: Is Hunter here for the long haul?