Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers shoots the...

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers shoots the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 16, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Credit: Getty Images

At the postgame interview podium after the Rangers’ series-clinching Game 6 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, Chris Kreider — whose third-period hat trick pulled the Blueshirts out of a two-goal hole and pushed them into the Eastern Conference Final — was asked what winning that game meant to him personally.

“It means we get to play more hockey,’’ the longest-tenured Ranger deadpanned.

They do indeed. For the second time in three years, the Rangers are in the conference finals. They’ll be going back to Florida for it, though this time they’ll be on the east coast, matching up against the Florida Panthers rather than the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Panthers advanced to the conference finals when they got a late goal from Gustav Forsling on Friday night to put away the Boston Bruins in six games.

After taking a couple of days off, the Rangers will return to practice Sunday to prepare for their next hurdle on the road to the Stanley Cup.

The Panthers, the Atlantic Division regular-season champions, offer a challenge similar to the Hurricanes — a high-shot-volume team that dominates possession — but with a little more high-end talent, a little more grit and a better goaltender in Vezina Trophy finalist Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Rangers again are the underdogs in the series, according to the betting odds. The Panthers were Stanley Cup finalists a year ago and beat the Rangers in two of three regular-season meetings in 2023-24, with the Rangers’ only win coming in a shootout. Plus there are those pesky analytics that never seem to be in the Rangers’ favor.

Florida’s 22 goals at five-on-five (in 11 games) are tied for second-most in the playoffs. The Panthers’ 33 shots on goal per game are second (behind Carolina). The Rangers are averaging 26.1 shots on goal per game, which is 12th among the 16 teams that made the playoffs and fourth among the five teams that remained alive going into Saturday.

The Rangers do have the advantage in the special-teams department, however. Their power play’s 31.4% success rate is third-best in the playoffs behind Edmonton (40.0%) and Colorado (36.7%). Their penalty kill’s 89.5% success rate is tops among playoff teams, as are their four shorthanded goals. In fact, the Rangers have scored as many shorthanded goals (four) as they have allowed power-play goals in the playoffs.

And as good as Bobrovsky was in the regular season, Igor Shesterkin’s .923 save percentage in the postseason is the best of any goaltender left in the playoffs. Bobrovsky, whose 2.37 goals-against average is second-best of any goalie still in the playoffs (Shesterkin’s 2.40 is third) has a save percentage of .902 in the postseason.

With the series not starting until Wednesday, the Rangers have a little time to heal up some aches and pains.

Defenseman Adam Fox, who took a knee-to-knee hit in the last game of the first-round sweep of Washington, seemed a little subdued in the Carolina series, managing only two assists in the six games and none in the last four. He took a couple of maintenance days during the time between the first two series and no doubt can use all of the rest afforded him between the Carolina series and this series.

And whatever illness or soreness kept Filip Chytil out of the final three games of the Carolina series after he returned to action in Game 3, he will have had plenty of time to get over it and presumably should be a lineup option for Game 1 against Florida.

Even Blake Wheeler, who has been working hard to come back from the leg injury that has kept him out of the lineup since mid-February might be ready to come back.

The Rangers are halfway to winning the Cup for the first time since 1994 and fans are getting excited. Forward Mika Zibanejad was asked Thursday if he believes the current team carries the weight of the Blueshirts’ history of one Cup win since 1940.

“People talk about it, but I don’t think it’s a burden,’’ he said. “It’s more motivation. You want to experience what [the ’94 team] did.

“And we know it’s a hard road to get there. A long way still. It’s definitely motivation for us.’’

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