NEW YORK –- Down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals after the first pair of games out in Los Angeles, the New York Rangers are feeling the pressure to win as the series shifts back to New York for Game 3 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. As coach Alain Vigneault said of his team hours before their match against the Los Angeles Kings, “We need to hold serve and we know that.”
The past two games have been heart-wrenching losses for the Blueshirts, who saw 2-0 leads disappear in both as the Kings proved their uncanny resilience this spring. The Kings have yet to play their best hockey, but they’ve shown moxie in their ability to come back against all odds, taking a two-game series lead despite not having led at any point throughout the first two games.
Home-ice advantage: The Rangers are looking forward to having their home crowd behind them for the first time this series and you can bet that the fans will be buzzing at MSG, considering the team’s surprising success this spring. New York is making its first finals appearance since its historic championship run in 1994. But beyond the lift a raucous crowd can provide, the Rangers also now have the luxury of the last change, which seems significantly important against a team with L.A.’s considerable depth. “There’s no doubt that’s a plus for us,” said rugged fourth-line forward Brian Boyle. “We had two hard-fought battles there in L.A. and didn’t get the result. It’s nice to come back in this barn and keep pushing and try to get the win.”
Bounce-back effort for Brad: Among the players who have struggled in the first two games, veteran Brad Richards’ underwhelming performance in Game 2 left a lot to be desired. The 34-year-old center, the team’s de facto captain, is looking to have a bounce-back effort Monday night, just like blueliner Dan Girardi responded in Game 2 following a rough outing in the series opener. And it’s not just Richards that needs to improve. Said Vigneault: “That whole line needs to be better.”
Road weary: Nothing like a cross-country flight to keep those legs fresh after two months straight of some grueling playoff hockey. Both teams will have to battle fatigue as they gear up for Game 3 after a long travel day Sunday following a double-overtime thriller on Saturday night. The Kings have to be especially wary of getting rest in while time allows, as they entered the finals having played three consecutive seven-game series. Said defenseman Drew Doughty: “I’m the best couch-sitter in the world, so I make sure to do a lot of that.”
Out again: Per the Monday morning pregame skate, it appears that Robyn Regehr will remain out Monday night despite being medically cleared to play. The 34-year-old veteran defenseman has yet to make an appearance this series and missed more than a month since sustaining a knee injury in the Kings’ second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. For the Rangers, it looks like Cam Talbot remains unavailable to back up Henrik Lundqvist. The 26-year-old backup has missed the first two games with an undisclosed injury, forcing journeyman David LeNeveu into the fold.