MONTREAL - Just one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers are gathering their strength for a huge effort in Game 5 Tuesday night. But at the same time, they're trying not to look further ahead.
At a downtown hotel here Monday night, one by one, three leaders of the team that is up three games to one in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals insisted that they are wary of letting the Canadiens off the mat.
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"They'll be a dangerous team," Brad Richards said. "A little bit of hope changes everything. They're going to feel comfortable here, and feel if they can win one, they probably feel like it's going to go seven. It's far from over."
Game 6, if necessary, would be at the Garden on Thursday night, but the Rangers want to return to Manhattan with a chance to prepare for the next stage. (The Kings lead the Blackhawks 3-1 in the Western Conference finals.)
Martin St. Louis, who scored the overtime winner on Sunday, said players are aware that "we've done nothing yet. We keep reminding ourselves; we know we're going to have to bring our best and more."
Some of that caution, based on the evidence that momentum can change, comes from the recent past, when the Rangers won three straight after falling behind the Penguins three games to one.
"Sometimes you're on the other side of the coin, so you understand what they're thinking," St. Louis said. "You can't take anything lightly. You don't want to give them any hope. I don't think it's an advantage. It's more of an understanding of what they're up against."
Brian Boyle recalled Game 4 against the Penguins as the lone playoff game in which the Rangers weren't totally focused, and they fell into a 3-1 series hole. "It sticks out," Boyle said. "You can tell you're not 100 percent. We were embarrassed in that game."
Otherwise, St. Louis said, "we've done a good job really staying even-keel."
He said he sensed that when he arrived from Tampa in the March 5 trade for Ryan Callahan.
"What stood out to me . . . when I first got here, the first couple weeks," St. Louis said, "was this team plays like they were in the playoffs right now. I've been on teams before where you feel you have to turn the switch on a little bit. I was impressed by how they played such a playoff-style game. It was very encouraging for me."
St. Louis and Richards won the Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay, a franchise that had been in business for 10 years. "A great part of playing with an Original Six team is the history, but we're trying to create our own history," Richards said. "Hopefully we can add to some other great things that have happened in New York."
Notes & quotes: Derek Stepan, who had surgery Friday to repair his fractured jaw -- the result of Brandon Prust's hit in Game 3 -- made the trip, and coach Alain Vigneault did not flatly rule him out for Tuesday night. Asked if his No. 1 center will be available, he said: "I couldn't say right now." He said taking the morning skate would be a "minimum" requirement and that "if he does come back, he's going to need some facial protection." . . . J.T. Miller, who played only 3:07 in Game 4 (with four hits and a shot on goal) before being checked by Andrei Markov and slamming into the goal post with his right shoulder, has an "upper-body injury," Vigneault said. He did not travel with the team.