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Back To Work Sunday As Rangers Await Stanley Cup Final Foe

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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The Rangers had two days to enjoy their Eastern Conference championship, but Sunday morning all healthy players were back on the ice practicing at the MSG Training Center as the team began to prepare for the organization's first Stanley Cup Final appearance in twenty years.

Head coach Alain Vigneault--speaking to reporters under a tent set up outdoors on a beautiful sunny day in Westchester--said he was excited at the prospect of having three straight days to practice before the Cup Final commences with Game One on Wednesday night. Of course the locale of the series opener, and the Rangers opponent in the Stanley Cup Final, is still not yet known, though all will ultimately be determined late Sunday night when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Los Angeles Kings in a decisive Game Seven of the Western Conference Final.

"I think for us, considering the two series before were seven-game series, the fact that we were able to give our guys 48 hours off and then have the opportunity for the first time in these playoffs to practice three straight days--I'm confident that's going to be very beneficial for us," stated Vigneault.

The players certainly seemed refreshed, upbeat and joking around when they took to the ice at 11:00 AM at the start of practice. They followed with a spirited fast-paced workout, coming on the heels of their Game Six 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday which Vigneault termed "our best game of the playoffs".

"It was kind of a cool situation to get two days to enjoy it," shared Rick Nash. "But now these practices are even more important because we're not going to be playing for a couple more days."

Ryan McDonagh added that he felt "refreshed" and noticed the pep in everyone's step on Sunday when the team reconvened for the first time since advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

Now the Rangers will wait to find to find out their next opponent, with nearly all of the players and coaches planning on watching Sunday's finale of an exciting Western Conference Final in which the Blackhawks have already twice staved off elimination with victories, and now get to host the Kings in Game Seven.

"Whoever we play, LA or Chicago, pick your poison--Stanley Cup champions or Stanley Cup champions from two years ago," said Vigneault, who knows both teams "really well", in his words, from his days coaching in the Western Conference with the Vancouver Canucks.

When asked what makes both the Blackhawks and Kings so good, Vigneault reeled off the reasons why.

"They're battle-tested, they've both played on the big stage and both have won," explained Vigneault. "Different styles. LA is a little bit bigger, but they both have a puck possession game that makes it real hard for you to get it back. Different challenge, but two real good teams."

Nash, of course played in the West and knows both teams intimately, as well.

"Both those teams are great," stated Nash, whose Rangers were 2-0-0 against Chicago this season and 1-1-0 against the Kings. "I've played against them both quite a bit, and obviously they've won the last two Stanley Cups, so we're going to have our hands full no matter who wins."

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There was one small injury-related surprise at practice Sunday with Cam Talbot unable to take part in the on-ice workout, replaced by Hartford Wolf Pack goalie David LeNeveau, who has been staying ready as part of the team's Black Aces.

Vigneault did not divulge the nature or extent of Talbot's unspecified injury, only saying that the Rangers backup goaltender--who appeared in relief of Henrik Lundqvist during the Game Five loss up in Montreal on Tuesday--is "day to day".

Forward J.T. Miller, who was hurt and suffered an unspecified injury, as well, in Game Four against the Canadiens did not practice with the team on Sunday, but he did skate on his own afterwards. Vigneault said of Miller that it would be "a couple of more days here" before he was ready to play again.

Jun 1 - 5:06pm
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