It's win or go home for the Rangers tonight in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. They trail the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Capitals, 3-1. A win would force a Game 6 in Washington on Sunday night.
Here's a preview and update from the morning skates.
1. Judging by the skate at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers' lineup remains the same as in Game 4 for the Blueshirts. But coach Alain Vigneault changed defense pairs, separating Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle, who struggled in D.C. The Capitals were sticking with the same group.
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast
Carl Hagelin-Dom Moore-Kevin Hayes
Tanner Glass-James Sheppard-J.T. Miller
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Joel Ward
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Jason Chimera
Andre Burakovsky-Jay Beagle-Troy Brouwer
Curtis Glencross-Brooks Laich-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-John Carlson
Tim Gleason-Mike Green
2. The Rangers seem confident and relaxed. "In looking back, the two games in Washington, we probably played 70 percent of the time in their end," Vigneault said. "With the amount of time we're spending in there, those opportunities that were just slightly off or getting blocked, they're due to start hitting the net." Interesting quote from the Caps' Niskanen: "I don't think we're ignoring the fact that they've probably outplayed us the majority of the series." Capitals coach Barry Trotz told the team about the opportunity to finish off this series on the road: "Embrace the challenge. Don't be afraid of it."
3. Expect the Rangers' defensemen to join the attack as much as possible to create more scoring chances. "This series, our back end hasn't produced a point 5-on-5," Vigneault said. "In the last two games, we're trying to push the pace and get our Ds involved, we'll do that tonight."
4. The Rangers will have the last matchups, so McDonagh and Girardi should see the bulk of the time against Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
5. Hayes, who turns 23 today, said in the second and third period last game, "we had some good looks. We score one of those, it's a different game and a different series. It helps every game if you do score first, but tonight it's do-or-die, so it's not over until the end."
6. St. Louis, 39, has not scored in nine playoff games and his contract is up at season's end. Asked if he believed this would be his final game here, St. Louis said, "I don't think this will be my last game." Unclear whether that means the Rangers will win and play again at the Garden (Game 7 would be next Tuesday) or that he will re-sign for another season.