After a light and loose practice at the Garden, the Rangers issued no guarantees on the eve of Game 6 in New Jersey. Tomorrow, of course, is the anniversary of Mark Messier’s hat trick, meaning today is the anniversary of the captain’s guarantee. But this group’s two leaders, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards, just smiled and dismissed it when pressed to see if they’d bite.
The closest thing to a guarantee came from a relatively expansive John Tortorella, although it had nothing to do directly with the outcome of tomorrow night’s game in Newark. Tortorella was asked about Henrik Lundqvist rebounding from perhaps his worst performance of the postseason and had this to say:
“He’ll play his best game tomorrow night.”
Same goes for Richards, whose stellar form from the first two rounds has yet to surface in this series. Richards seemed particularly ineffective in Game 5 when, as the joke goes, his most dangerous shot on net was fired at his own goaltender.
“I expect him to play his best game, too,” Tortorella said. “He will find his way. I know his makeup.”
As you’d expect, the coach also sidestepped comparisons to the 1994 team, particularly the fact that this one finds itself in such a similar situation being down a game in the conference finals as it heads to New Jersey. He said that memory meant a lot outside the Garden and is significant to the media, but not him and his club.
“Not to disrespect what happened there, but that has nothing to do with how we’re preparing,” he said.
UPDATED, 3:56 p.m.: In Newark today, Martin Brodeur said 1994 had “nothing” to do with this series.
“I don’t see anything that is similar,” Brodeur said. “I know if you guys look at it, it looks the same. But it’s different teams and a different way of playing the game. That’s 18 years ago. That’s a long time. I know I’m feeling a lot different. I’m feeling a lot more appreciative of what’s going on.”
Brodeur also said he and his team had no knowledge of Messier’s guarantee until after the game.
“We didn’t even know before the game was ended that he made a guarantee,” Brodeur said, adding: “I don’t recall it having an effect on us at all. But I think at the end of the game everybody made a big deal out of that. If he really said it, that’s a pretty gutsy thing to do.”
• Michael Del Zotto was the only regular who did not skate at practice. Del Zotto was not at the Garden at all today, although the club would not say where he was. (Remember: His grandmother passed away over the weekend.)
• Every other forward and defenseman who has played this postseason was on the ice, including Lundqvist and the recovering Brandon Dubinsky. Mats Zuccarello (wrist) skated with the team as well and told reporters he would be ready to play if called upon.
• Tortorella said he liked the look of some of the new line combinations he unveiled in Game 6, but didn’t like others. Callahan thought his line with Artem Anisimov and Dubinsky not only produced chances but kept the puck in its offensive zone effectively. Presumably, the coach agreed, but he wasn’t about to admit what he liked and what he didn’t.