Live in Ottawa: Ten months after bruising playoff series, a rematch

Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil fights New York Rangers'

Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil fights New York Rangers' Brandon Prust, right, during the first period of Game 6. (April 23, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Ten months after a bruising seven-game, first-round playoff battle in which five games were decided by a goal, the Rangers and Senators square off tonight here in Ottawa, well, in the suburb of Kanata. Naturally, this morning after the skates at ScotiaBank Centre, there were differing views on the rematch.  

“Anytime you play a team in the playoffs, there’s an opportunity for a rivalry,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “Tonight is the next game since that Game 7, and it’s an opportunity for us to compete. Last year served as a motivator for them and this will be a motivator for us.

“We’ll use our last loss (against Montreal) as motivation,” said Henrik Lundqvist when told of MacLean’s comments. Lundqvist faces Craig Anderson, who leads the NHL with a 1.57 GAA and a .950 save percentage, and was in goal for all seven games in last spring’s showdown.

The series was a physical, low-scoring affair. Brian Boyle sustained a concussion on a hit from Chris Neil. In Game 2, Boyle was jumped by Matt Carkner (now an Islander) and Carl Hagelin was suspended three games for a high elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson.

Coach John Tortorella said that series would not have any impact on the game, and Neil echoed that sentiment.

“They went on and we didn’t, but that’s over,” said Neil. "We’re still trying to climb the ladder.” But Neil warned about any potential retaliation: “I feed off that kind of stuff,” he said.

The Rangers, (2-3-0 on the road) will be without elite power forward Rick Nash for the second straight game, staying in New York with an undisclosed injury that the team will not identify; speculation ranges from a concussion to a groin or shoulder problem. “Obviously, he’s a big guy we’re missing,” said Ryan Callahan. “Throughout the year teams have injuries; we miss Nasher, but it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up.”

Darroll Powe, who sustained a concussion on Sunday, is also sidelined.  Neither of those two players was in the series in April.

Stu Bickel, who played in all seven playoffs games against the Senators, dressed as a spare forward this morning. If Bickel plays that means either Brandon Mashinter or Arron Asham, who had a maintenance day on Wednesday but skated this morning, is out.

The Senators (9-6-2) are missing numerous players, including All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowan and Guillaume Latendresse. They just beat the Devils and Islanders but are 3-3 in the past six.

“As intense a series we had with them, it’s going to be a hard game, but I don’t think any of the bad blood or battles will carry over,” said Callahan.  

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