Pregame notebook: Game 4: Rangers vs. Capitals

April, 20, 2011
4/20/11
1:00
PM ET
Here are some quick hits from this morning’s press conferences with Rangers coach John Tortorella and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Rangers and Capitals on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at MSG.

DIDN’T YOU START THIS?: Boudreau caused a stir earlier this week when he said in a radio interview that Madison Square Garden’s reputation exceeds its actual experience and the fans in the building weren’t that loud. When asked if he expects a reaction from the crowd for Game 4, he switched the tables, blaming the media.

“You guys are asking this question and it’s a non-hockey question,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got two teams that are battling their rear ends off every night, hitting and everything, and we come in with these non-important, I thought non-hockey questions, so I’m not going to talk about it anymore because you blow it way out of proportion.”

PERSONNEL: Tortorella confirmed that the Rangers will have the same personnel, meaning defenseman Steve Eminger will be the healthy scratch….Boudreau would not address the status of forward Mike Knuble, who was hit in the hand with a shot during Game 3.

HOME ADVANTAGE?: While this series has favored the home team, as each team is undefeated in its own building, both coaches dismissed the idea that there is any home-ice advantage during the playoffs.

“You want to play at home. I think the building helped us our last game,” Tortorella said. “I think it will help us again tonight, but when you play, you play for a couple of weeks and you go through the momentum swings of everything. I think there is more important stuff that is going to affect a series. I don’t want to disregard playing in your own building, that helps you, but that’s not going to get you where you want to be.”

Added Boudreau: “If you look at it as a whole, they were a great road team, they were a better road team if you look at the course of the year, and I thought we were a pretty good road team as well. I think playoffs, it’s tough. Whether you play at home or on the road, I think both teams think of it like that.”

MAKING STRIDES: While the Rangers trail 2-1 in the series, Tortorella said his team has continued to get better with each game, but the Rangers must be even better if they hope to tie the series tonight. He said for the team to keep the momentum from Game 3, there must be improvement across the board in every aspect as he expects Washington to play even better Wednesday night.

“I just think, really, in all series, as each game goes by it’s ramped up, and I think these are lessons, especially for the youth of our club, they are going to find out real quickly,” Tortorella said. “That’s just the way it is. This is the stage where you have to keep on getting better, and if you don’t you’re done.”

ON THE OTHER HAND: For Washington to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, Boudreau talked about the importance of capitalizing on mistakes, saying the games are almost like “a game of chess."

“I don’t think it’s either way where either team has to do anything different,” Boudreau said. “If we capitalize on a Ranger mistake or they capitalize on us, it seems that’s the way the games have been decided. Hopefully we’re not the ones making the mistakes.”

STRUGGLING STEPAN: Tortorella addressed the play of rookie Derek Stepan, who has a minus-3 rating and just two shots through three games. While the rookie is clearly struggling, Tortorella is optimistic that Stepan can improve.

“He has a maturity about him that I think his game is getting better as the series has gone on, and for us to continue to compete it has to get better because he’s a big part of our club,” Tortorella said. “The youth of our club is the big part of it, this is why we’ve won this year; we’ve done it as a group and a lot of that is with the youth. This is a great process for us to be going through, and we’re going to find out as each game goes on it’s going to be a hard series and we need to stay with it.”

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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