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Rangers Practice Report: “Huge opportunity” awaits the Rangers in Game 2

Bobby Bevilacqua

rick nash skating 5-16

Rick Nash said that Game 2 presents a ‘huge opportunity” for the Rangers to capitalize on their home ice advantage. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers started out the Eastern Conference Finals exactly as they had hoped, coming away with a victory at Madison Square Garden to put them three wins away from returning to the Stanley Cup Finals. Alain Vigneault and his team fought for home ice advantage during the regular season, and now they need to take capitalize on that.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” said Rick Nash following the Rangers’ practice on Sunday afternoon. “We have home ice and want to take full advantage of that. We’re going to see their best tomorrow, but we prefer to look at ourselves, and see a huge opportunity to go ahead 2-0.”

Last year, the Rangers did exactly that, winning the first two games of the series against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. That allowed them to come to the Garden for Game 3 and 4, giving the Rangers a huge leg up in the series. They won Game 4 at MSG, giving them a 3-1 series lead, and a stranglehold on the Canadiens.

In these playoffs, the Rangers are 6-2 at Madison Square Garden, but in each of the past two series, they split the first two games at home. There wasn’t the same sense of urgency then to win the first two games, mainly because neither the Penguins nor the Capitals were as good as Tampa on home ice. At Amalie Arena, the Lightning had a league leading 32 home wins.

That explains why the Rangers want to win both games before heading down to Tampa Bay. They were a good road team, winning 28 road games but getting business done on home ice is a more dependable option.

“You want to take advantage of playing at home,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who has been a big part of the Rangers’ success so far. “But I see it also as just one game. Let’s get that one win (on Monday). I don’t want to look at the whole series, or how this win sets up the series. That’s too much work,” he joked.

But Lundqvist is right. The Rangers always talked about taking it one game at a time, focusing on the task at hand rather than the big picture. Just worry about winning one game at a time. That’s what they did after going down 3-1 against the Capitals, and it worked out well for them.

The Rangers really did dominate at even strength on Saturday, limiting the Lightning to very few quality chances. The Rangers were very close to scoring in the first period, but Bishop made some great saves, and Kevin Hayes hit a post. The damage could have been much worse. Where the Lightning did show promise was on the power play, scoring once on four opportunities.

“We have to stay disciplined against them,” Miller explained after the practice. “[The Lightning] can really hurt you with all of its skill on the power play.”

During Tampa Bay’s practice, Brian Boyle was not on the ice, marking the second consecutive day he did not participate with his team. Boyle did not play in Game 1 due to an undisclosed upper body injury. There is no news on what the injury is, its severity, or when Boyle will return.

Mats Zuccarello did not practice, still suffering from symptoms of what is likely a concussion after getting hit in the head with a puck in Game 5 against the Penguins. When Vigneault was asked if Zuccarello had begun skating and working out, all he said was, “I could not tell you.”

Tanner Glass did not practice, but Vigneault said he is not concerned about his availability going forward. He took another maintenance day, like he did before Game 1. Glass is a hard hitter and a physical player, so he is probably feeling a bit sore.

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Posted on May 18, 2015, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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