NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York Rangers had just suffered a difficult loss to the Kings in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, but coach Alain Vigneault didn’t use the long plane ride home from Los Angeles to drill his players on how to get back into the series.
Vigneault wanted the Rangers to rest and re-energize, and after a tiring start to the series the Kings had the same idea.
“You should’ve seen the plane ride over here,” Kings winger Justin Williams said. “It was all lights out and guys were sleeping.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter voiced some concern about fatigue earlier in the series, but the true test is how these teams will react moving forward after two overtime games and then cross-country flights Sunday. Neither team practised on the day before Game 3 because rest is now at a premium.
“I think the longer series go, the longer the playoffs go, (it’s about) courage, determination, extra effort,” Sutter said. “You’re never going to feel fresh. You’re never going to feel as good as you did in November. That’s the way it works. That’s for sure. They’re people.”
Williams doesn’t consider fatigue a problem. For now.
“We’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s the Cup finals, there’s no excuse for not being ready or not being prepared or being tired. You can get yourself ready.”
That’s easier said than done after it took until midway through the second overtime before Dustin Brown finished off Game 2 to give Los Angeles a two games to none lead in the series.
Despite Williams scoring 4:36 into overtime in Game 1, there’s a build-up of extra hockey going on for the Kings. That was their third overtime game in a row.
“It’s pretty tough,” Kings winger Marian Gaborik said. “To play this many periods the last three games, it’s a lot of hockey. But everyone will find the energy.”
The Rangers had a handful of days off after beating the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final, but that doesn’t mean players could immediately re-adjust to the time change by the time they took the ice at Madison Square Garden on Monday morning.
Trying to explain the mood around the team, forward Brian Boyle noted that it’s still early in the morning. But he wasn’t worried about being tired.
“You just try and get your rest and plenty of fluids,” Boyle said. “It’s the same for probably everybody. It’s an even playing field. So you just do your best.”
Even though it is an even playing field, it takes some work.
“I think on the days off is where you take care of a lot of the physical fatigue, get as much liquids into you as possible and take a step back and relax a little bit,” Kings forward Dwight King said Sunday at the team hotel. “As far as prepping for games, everybody has been in this situation long enough to know what they need to do to bring what they need to bring in order for our team to be successful.”
Defenceman Drew Doughty, who played a game-high 41:41 on Saturday night, has his own strategy.
“I’m the best couch-sitter in the world, so I make sure to do a lot of that,” he said.
That’s one way to physically re-charge. But 14 players in this series also participated in the Olympics, so the grind is no joke.
“I think it’s my longest season ever,” said Kings defenceman Slava Voynov, who played for Russia in Sochi. “But I feel like last season, a couple of years ago, same thing, it’s not big deal for me. Just try to play games.”
And there have been a lot of games. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has played 91, counting the Olympics. He thinks the bigger concern is the mental aspect of playing so many games, including the overtimes.
“Physically we can all do it,” Lundqvist said. “It’s about how you recharge mentally. You have to make sure you’re in the right place. No letdowns here.”
NOTES—Injured Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot did not skate Monday morning, and David LeNeveu is expected to continue serving in that role. Vigneault did not provide an update on Talbot’s status. … Injured Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr, who hasn’t played since May 3, continues to skate but his status is uncertain. Sutter said the team will continue to see what happens as warm-ups and games go on.
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