The Rangers’ reward for a regular season that saw them win 51 games and earn 109 points comes tonight.
The Rangers host Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Senators at the Garden tonight at 7 p.m. (MSG).
“It’s a great day in your life to wake up and know everybody is watching,” Brad Richards said after yesterday morning’s loose-but-focused practice at the team’s facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. The only player who did not participate in the practice was captain Ryan Callahan, who was given a “maintenance day” by John Tortorella.
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“Game 7 is something you don’t forget,” Richards said.
The Rangers have won their last three Game 7s at the Garden. The last time the Rangers hosted a Game 7 was June 14, 1994. On that night, the Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2, to win the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup Championship.
“I definitely think the crowd can be a factor,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.
Added Michael Del Zotto: “I’m sure it’s going to be exciting. We need [the fans to be] on our side, especially tomorrow; create a hostile environment for Ottawa.”
The last time the Rangers competed in a Game 7 was three years ago. The Rangers lost the game 2-1 to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a series in which the Blueshirts had a 3-1 lead before dropping the final three games by an aggregate 11-4 margin.
“I think [more] positive energy in the group here,” Lundqvist said when asked to differentiate the 2009 team and the current edition. Only Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal, Artem Anisimov and Dan Girardi remain from that team.
“When you play games where there is more hype, more expectations, you learn something every time about yourself. Playing a game like Winter Classic was a learning experience,” Lundqvist said.
“I know it is a very important game. I’m going to approach the same way I approached the last game, the game before that and the series.”
Lundqvist named finalist
Lundqvist was named a Vezina finalist Wednesday morning. It marks the fourth time in his career that Lundqvist is a finalist for the award honoring the league’s top goaltender. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne are the other finalists.
Lundqvist finished the regular season with a 39-18-5 mark. His .930 save percentage and eight shutouts were tied for third most in the league with the Phoenix Coyotes’ Mike Smith in both categories. He tied the St. Louis Blues’ Jaroslav Halak for fourth in the NHL with a 1.97 goals against average.
“I’m really proud and honored,” Lundqvist said. “There [have] been a lot of goalies this year who have played really well.
“I feel great about it. I’m really happy about it.”
Del Zotto with a no comment
Del Zotto said he “didn’t know what [Chris Neil] said,” when asked to comment on the Senators’ right wing’s threat to “catch [the Rangers’ defenseman] with his head down one of these times,” following Game 6. The league did not fine Neil nor did he have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety.
“I’m just worried about tomorrow’s game — a huge game for us,” Del Zotto said. “Game 7 in our building; it’s going to be exciting and that’s all I’m worried about.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.