GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers face a daunting 3-0 series hole with the knowledge that never in franchise history has the team overcome such a deficit.
Heading into Game 4 against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Rangers are trying to avoid the statistics and the past, instead narrowing their focus on the most immediate need.
"Obviously, it is a tall task, but you can't look at the big picture," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said Wednesday. "You take it day by day here, trying to get yourself better, as close to 100 percent as you can going into the game, and you've gotta use the home crowd again tomorrow and try to thrive off that."
The Rangers had won nine straight at Madison Square Garden before letting a third-period lead against Boston disappear in Tuesday's 2-1 loss.
With the Bruins eager to erase the past -- a blown 3-0 series lead to Philadelphia in the 2010 playoffs plus a shaky first-round series this year against Toronto in which they allowed the Leafs to force a Game 7 -- they'll be looking to channel the confidence gained from their past four wins to complete the sweep.
The Rangers have not been swept since 2006, when the New Jersey Devils beat them in four consecutive games.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, they will likely try to avoid elimination without the help of top-four defenseman Anton Stralman, who was forced from Game 3 with a suspected shoulder injury after absorbing a thunderous hit from Boston's Milan Lucic in the second period.
Rangers coach John Tortorella, both after the game Tuesday and the team's practice Wednesday, seemed to be prepared for Stralman's absence from the lineup.
"Losing Stralsy is a big blow," Tortorella said Wednesday. "To a defense that is lacking a little depth right now, it hurts us. But, again, it just comes down to, listen, we're down 0-3, there's no sense in feeling pressure."
Stralman has quietly been a strong and steady presence on the team's back end, which is already ailing without cornerstone defenseman Marc Staal. Stralman has provided the Rangers mobility and toughness and will be missed against a deep, balanced Bruins squad.
"He's been huge in this series," McDonagh said. "He's such a mobile skater, and that's huge as a defenseman. He's able to get a step on a guy, create some space and find a passing lane to get it up to our forwards. He's been exceptional in the playoffs, and we really hope he's back."
"Players that get to play tomorrow and play more minutes than maybe they're used to? Grab ahold of it and let it happen," Tortorella advised. "I mean, crap, you lose and you're done."