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For Rangers, it's tough not to think about hockey 24/7

Carl Hagelin #62 of the Rangers celebrates his

Carl Hagelin #62 of the Rangers celebrates his first-period goal against the Montreal Canadiens during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, May 22, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Actually, hockey players don't leave it all on the ice.

During the intense days of the playoffs, with the importance of each game heightened by the reality that the season's end could come sooner than hoped, the games regularly follow the players home and throughout their daily routines.

For the Rangers, the good news is that their lives will continue to be immersed in such thoughts for at least four more games. But it is a fever not easily shaken. It's almost impossible to leave their work at the office.

"With all the media, and there's a game on TV all the time, you're obviously paying attention," forward Carl Hagelin said. "But I think it's important on days off not to worry about hockey. Spend time with people you like to spend time with."

He paused. "Well, obviously, they're going to bring up hockey. But you try not to think about it too much."

The dichotomy is that the games most likely to be savored -- Thursday night's 1-0 elimination of the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals would be the ideal example -- are not the ones that disrupt down time.

"When you win and you play good and things go well," Mats Zuccarello said, "It's easier to not think about it on your day off. But was a tough day.

"It's in the back of your mind what you could've done better, what you need to do better and all that stuff. You try not to think about hockey too much on days off, when you're outside of the rink.

"I watch a little bit , but right now, you'd rather watch a good movie and just get your mind off of everything."

The oft-used expression in sports these days is to "flush it." Whatever happened in the last game, there is nothing a player can do about it now.

Before Game 6, coach Alain Vigneault made it clear that "we have moved on past Game 5."

For defenseman Anton Stralman, that's the best approach. "You definitely want to clear your head,'' he said. "It's very individual, of course. But in general, I don't watch much hockey. I don't really pay much attention to it except for myself. You do get an overdose. I do.

"In the playoffs, it's too much to take in and I don't need it. Days off, my kids keep me busy, so that's a good way to kind of get away from it. For me, that's very important.

"But some guys really love to watch hockey -- all the other games in the other cities."

One of those guys is forward Brian Boyle: "The nerves, the anxiety, all that -- 24/7,'' he said. "This is the most fun times. It's hockey every night. It's a lot of buzz about hockey. I've never really thought about trying to clear my head. I'm changing the channel from the first round, watching pretty much every second I could of playoff hockey. It's pretty exciting.

"And it's because we're a part of it. In years past, when we weren't, you find other things . . . But we're right in the thick of it."

To him, too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

New York Sports