On the heels of a stellar wire-to-wire effort in Game 3 against Ottawa to get themselves back in the series at 2-1, the Rangers know it’s going to take a similar performance in Game 4 Thursday at the Garden if they want to head back to Ottawa all square.
“Just have to push yourself,” Henrik Lundqvist said after Wednesday’s practice at MSG. “Just need to understand how important the game is, and then the desperation and determination will come. If you understand the importance, it’s hard not to come with that desperation. It’s a big one. We try to tie it up here.”
As Alain Vigneault said simply: “(Thursday’s) the most important game of the season for us.”
THE NEXT STEP
Mika Zibanejad in Game 3 looked like a player who was beginning to put it all together, Vigneault explaining the center has added an improved battle level to his innate abilities. Zibanejad has been candid at times about how he sometimes plays too passive and that prevents him from being as effective.
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“His growth has more to do with him taking charge,” Vigneault said of Zibanejad. “We’re gonna be sitting here in a couple of years probably saying he’s a real good player or we’re gonna say he never quite figured it out, and that’s part of him working at his game, working at his mental game, working with our sports psychologist and trying to put it all together.
“There’s a lot of players that have a tremendous amount of skill, but you always have to combine that with the right work ethic and the right attitude and you’ve got to develop your skills — not just the on-ice skills, but the off-ice skills that separate good players from really good players. I think Mika’s starting to grasp that. Obviously right now there’s a lot of pressure, and I think the last little while he’s managed it well and I think he’s getting better.”
Rick Nash did not practice on Wednesday, sitting out for what the club dubbed “maintenance.” Nash also missed a practice for maintenance last Tuesday two days before the start of the second round after the Rangers had two days off. Nash has been saying he’s feeling fine and Vigneault said it’s nothing more than bumps and bruises.
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