NHL: Well-tested Rangers, Kings to play for Stanley Cup
Greenburgh, N.Y. • Henrik Lundqvist had his game-day face on at practice.
He still smiled and answered all the questions thrown at him Monday about the Los Angeles Kings the New York Rangers' long-awaited opponent in the Stanley Cup finals.
"Exciting. Long flight," the star goalie said Monday before he and his teammates headed to California for New York's first appearance in the finals since winning the title in 1994. "East Coast-West Coast. I'll look forward to this matchup."
If there wasn't already enough pressure on Lundqvist to lead his team to the championship, he is now part of the hype machine heading into Game 1 on Wednesday.
Headlines are screaming: "King Henrik vs. the Kings."
"Clever," he said with a slight laugh.
The Rangers had been waiting since Thursday to find out if they would face the 2012 Stanley Cup-winning Kings or the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the finals.
They took two days off before returning to practice on Sunday. Most of the players said they watched at least part of Los Angeles' third road Game 7 win of this playoff year that night.
"Any team you play at this time of year is a good hockey team, especially a team that has kind of been around the playoffs and the Stanley Cup finals a couple of times in the last few years," forward Derek Stepan said. "This is a very good hockey club, We have a tough challenge in front of us."
The Kings returned to Los Angeles after their 5-4 come-from-behind overtime win at Chicago and took Monday off. They have played a record 21 playoff games before the finals one more than the Rangers, who eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in six games during the Eastern Conference finals.
Before this year, no team that played seven games in each of the first two rounds had reached the finals. Now, both clubs have done it. The Kings taking it a step further with a trio of seven-game series.
"When you knew you were playing L.A., the adrenaline started coming a little bit more," Lundqvist said. "You've been thinking about this ever since you beat Montreal, but now knowing we're going to L.A., it was easier to focus on what's coming.
"You just try to now come back to the focus and mindset you had last week. It's been nice to get a little break here and get away from it a little bit because it's been that intense."
The Rangers and Kings split two games during the regular season with each team winning in the other club's building.
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1
P N.Y. Rangers at Los Angeles,Wednesday, 6 p.m.
TV • Ch. 5