Jacob Trouba of the New York Rangers celebrates his second-period...

Jacob Trouba of the New York Rangers celebrates his second-period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Five at Madison Square Garden on May 13, 2024. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

GREENBURGH – So 1994 is just trolling us at this point, constantly wedging itself into 2024 conversations about the Rangers and Knicks.

But give our 30-year-old friend credit for creativity on this one.

The latest was the news on Tuesday that Jacob Trouba won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, the first Ranger to do so since it first was given on an annual basis in 2007.

You might recall that Messier was the Rangers captain when they won the Stanley Cup in 1994, and that he guaranteed a victory before a crucial Game 6.

Trouba, too, is a Rangers captain, and he, too, now must helm the leadership as they face another Game 6, against the Hurricanes on Thursday night in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Unlike in 1994 against the Devils, this is the second round, not the third, and the Rangers lead the series, 3-2, rather than trailing.

But still. Given the pressure not to become the fifth team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead, this challenge feels dire enough for some high drama.

“We know what’s at stake,” Trouba said after practice on Wednesday. “We’ve been in this situation where we needed to bounce back after a performance we didn’t necessarily love, and we’ve responded every time.

“I think that’s the confidence that we’ve built in this locker room throughout the course of the year. It’s crunch time.”

Trouba was honest enough to admit that as much as a 3-2 edge beats the reverse, the Rangers’ two-game skid – including a 4-1 dud in Game 5 – changed the tenor of this series.

“That’s just reality of the situation,” he said. “They’re probably feeling good for a 3-2 series [deficit] right now versus how we’re feeling with a 3-2 series [lead].”

That said, the Rangers believe their veteran leadership, beginning with Trouba, will be enough to guide them.

“Inside of any successful team,” coach Peter Laviolette said, “I think your leaders have to be the guys to step to the forefront, and this group has, for the entire year and the playoffs.”

Trouba made news on Tuesday for his award and on Wednesday for an intriguing on-ice development.

He has had an uneven playoff season, even though he did score a shorthanded goal for the Rangers’ only tally of Game 5.

But on Wednesday he found himself returned to the second defense pair with his longtime partner K’Andre Miller.

Laviolette said that what reporters saw in practice would not necessarily be what they see come Game 6, but he said he likes how much experience the two have as a pair.

The players agreed.

“We’ve played a lot of games together, played a lot of good hockey together,” Trouba said. “There’s obviously a comfort level there with both of us playing together for so long.”

Said Miller, “Obviously, we have a lot of games together, a lot of time together. There’s a lot of chemistry there, still. Excited to get back to that.”

The Messier award signifies leadership not only on the ice but in the community, where Trouba and his wife, Kelly, are active in a variety of causes, including Trouba raising charitable funds through the sale of his artwork.

What did the honor mean to him? “A lot,” he said. “Any leadership award is special, obviously a little extra coming from [Messier], what he means to the Rangers, to New York, to hockey in general, what he’s accomplished.”

Trouba said joining the Rangers means walking by Messier’s jersey every day on the way to breakfast at the training facility. “So it’s definitely special,” he said.

Messier interviewed Trouba on ESPN on Tuesday night, during which Trouba said, “Looking forward to going into Carolina and getting a win in Carolina. I think that’s the belief that our group has in each other.”

Wait: Was that a guarantee?!?

Is Chris Kreider OK?

Chris Kreider did not practice because of what the Rangers called “maintenance.” But Laviolette injected some uncertainty into the situation when he was asked whether he has any concerns about Kreider beyond “normal playoff maintenance.” Laviolette said, “I’m hoping that today was just normal playoff maintenance.” . . . Filip Chytil was a full participant in practice but was not part of the top four lines for the session.

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