Rangers players on Tuesday cleaned out their lockers and looked back on their season following their playoff exit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Florida Panthers. Newsday's Colin Stephenson reports. Credit: Colin Stephenson

GREENBURGH  — If there was one message that emanated from the Rangers’ locker room on Breakup Day Tuesday, it was this:

We’ll be back.

“Obviously, it's very fresh still, very raw. Very disappointing,’’ Chris Kreider said as the players gathered for year-end meetings following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers that eliminated them from the Eastern Conference final. “But we had a pretty incredible year over the course of the regular season. And we didn't, obviously, accomplish what we set out to accomplish, but certainly there are some things that we can take and learn from and come back and, and be better.’’

Kreider, the longest-tenured Ranger, was asked if he felt this current group is good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

“Yes,’’ he said.

As for Vincent Trocheck, he can’t wait to get next season started.

“The fact that we got this far, the empty feeling that I have right now, the season that we had… it all has, like, a burning feeling in my stomach. You want to get back,’’ Trocheck said. “You're excited for next year already.’’

A year ago, after they had lost to the rival Devils in the first round of the playoffs, there was anger on Breakup Day, and maybe more than a touch of embarrassment. This time, the players seemed to take solace in the fact they played a close series against a very tough Florida team, with five of the six games decided by one goal.

“I think if we could go back to work tomorrow, we would,’’ first-year coach Peter Laviolette said. “With everything that we went through, the mindset that we had going into this, I think the guys are not only disappointed, they’re probably angry. Frustrated and angry that we're not still playing; that it's not us in the finals.’’

As always happens, players were finally willing to talk about injuries they’d tried to hide during the playoffs. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren suffered a cracked rib in Game 6 of the second-round series against Carolina; winger Jimmy Vesey suffered a separated shoulder in Game 2 against Florida.

Captain Jacob Trouba suffered a broken ankle late in the season, though he stressed he was healed and able to play by the time the playoffs started. Adam Fox was reticent about his troubles, saying he didn’t want to make any excuses, but he admitted that the knee-on-knee hit he took from Nick Jensen in the final game of the first-round sweep over Washington bothered him the rest of the playoffs.

“It was a little bit of a, you know, a tough situation,’’ the Jericho native said. “But when you're on the ice, whether you're 100%, 70%, 50%, you're not going to make an excuse of, ‘Oh, I didn't play up to the standard because of this and that.’ I think everyone's always a little banged up this time of year, too, so I think the expectation is still to go out and perform at your best.’’

Notes & quotes

After wrapping up his interview session, goaltender Igor Shesterkin, was asked about his contract negotiations, now that he has one year remaining on the four-year deal he signed in 2021. “I don’t speak English,’’ he deadpanned… Filip Chytil, who returned to action in the Carolina series after missing six months with what is believed to have been a concussion said he never, at any time, worried he wouldn’t make it back. “I never had in my mind that I would never play again,’’ he said. “I just didn't know when I'm gonna be back.’’ … Blake Wheeler, who is 37, coming off a knee injury, and now an unrestricted free agent, said he hadn’t decided if he wants to play again next season. “I still love the game. I still love to play, but I want to be around for [my three kids’] childhood, too. So I think those are the things you weigh.’’ … Matt Rempe, a Calgary native, is happy for his old Hartford coach, Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch, but said he can’t root for Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Final. But he doesn’t want to root for Florida, either. “No winners!’’ he said.

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