Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) celebrates a goal with teammates...

Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) celebrates a goal with teammates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.  Credit: AP/George Walker IV

GREENBURGH — Rangers captain Jacob Trouba clearly believes that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. On Friday, he said the struggles the Blueshirts went through in January have made them stronger as they prepare for Game 1 of their first-round series against the Washington Capitals on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

“We weren’t necessarily playing horrible. We just weren’t winning games,’’ Trouba said of a month in which the Rangers went 5-7-2. “And what it takes to kind of get through that, as a group face something where you’re challenged a bit, [and] there’s a little bit of pressure. I believe I read something that we should be sellers [at the trade deadline] at some point.

“I think just going through something where you’re facing adversity, it’s gonna hit at some point [during the playoffs]. You’re gonna get down in a series, down in a game, whatever it may be. Looking back on something that you’ve gone through as a group together, it’s always important. I said at the time that we’re probably gonna be a better team on the other side of this. And it will be over, [and] we’ll get through it, which we did.

“And that was obviously a great finish to the season. And guys are feeling good. And now we’ve kind of gone through some of that [adversity], and I feel like we’re ready. We’re prepared.’’

As the Rangers practiced for the second straight day after two days off, center Mika Zibanejad said the key to handling adversity in the playoffs will be understanding what the team did in the past to be successful in those situations.

“There’s going to be times in the series, in the games, when things are not really going for you,’’ Zibanejad said. “And vice versa as well, when things are really good for you. I think you’ve just got to remember what we’ve done and what makes us successful and trust ourselves. Trust what we’ve been doing.’’

One of the things the Rangers did best during their 55-23-4 season was keep the puck out of their own net. They allowed 229 goals, the seventh-fewest in the league, an average of 2.79 per game. But in January, they allowed 47 goals in 14 games, an average of 3.36 per game. They allowed six goals twice and five goals three times and lost all of those games.

In the 33 games from February through the end of the season, they allowed 87 goals, an average of 2.64 per game. They gave up six goals once and five goals four times — and won three of those games.

Laviolette and Thibodeau

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette was asked about his relationship with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, and what he thought of the complimentary things Thibodeau had to say about the Rangers on Thursday.

“I love what the Rangers have done,’’ Thibodeau said. “They’ve had an incredible year. I love it. It’s great for the city . . . They played great hockey all year long.’’

Thibodeau described himself as “a big fan’’ of Laviolette and added, “I like their style.’’

“It’s pretty cool, Saturday, Sunday in the building,’’ Laviolette said of both teams playing Game 1 of their first-round playoff series at the Garden this weekend. “I have gotten to have just a few conversations [with Thibodeau]. We’re both busy, and not always in here at the same time. Just a terrific gentleman. He’s done an amazing job with the Knicks.’’

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