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Thursday, April 26, 2012
W2W4: Rangers vs. Senators

By Katie Strang

At a glance: Here it is, Game 7. With the series tied 3-3, both clubs square off at Madison Square Garden in what is sure to be a do-or-die grudge match that lives up to the hostility that has reigned throughout a vicious Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Rangers will try to send the Senators packing in front of their hometown crowd, while Ottawa attempts to become the second eight-seed to knock off a first-place squad this post-season.

Callahan okay: Despite missing practice Wednesday for a “maintenance” day, the Rangers will have captain Ryan Callahan in their lineup. The 27-year-old sparkplug blocked Chris Phillips’ blistering slapshot with his hand on Monday in Ottawa, requiring attention of the team trainer on the bench, but remained in the game.

Second-round opponent set: Should the Rangers beat the Senators and advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, their opponent is already set. The Blueshirts would then meet the Washington Capitals, who pulled off a stunning upset with a thrilling overtime win Wednesday against the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. Should the Senators become the second eight-seed in the NHL playoffs to knock off a first-place team, they will face either Philadelphia or Florida (if the Panthers beat the Devils Thursday).

Pushing buttons: After a bitter 3-2 loss at home in Ottawa on Monday night, two of the Senators biggest stars, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, may take a little extra motivation into Game 7. Unhappy with his team’s performance, MacLean benched Spezza for part of the third period in Game 6. He also called out Alfredsson for his uncharacteristic tirade on the bench during the game and later met with his 39-year-old captain to discuss the antics.

Boyle out: The Rangers will be without key center Brian Boyle for the second straight game as the result of a concussion sustained after a hit from Ottawa’s Chris Neil in Game 5. The 6-6 pivot tallied three goals in the first three games of the series, and played a pivotal role as one of their stingiest penalty-killers and most reliable faceoff men.

Konopka, Carkner available: Both fourth-line center (and faceoff specialist) Zenon Konopka and hulking defenseman Matt Carkner are available to play for the Senators Thursday, coach Paul MacLean confirmed. MacLean would not actually commit to using either, however. He said he was keepinghis lineup options “open.”

Game 7 times two: For only the second time in history, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils wiil play in separate Game 7’s on the same night. The last time the rare double-header took place? April 28, 2009. Neither local team advanced with the Rangers dropping a 2-1 decision to the Capitals in Washington and the Devils suffering a 4-2 loss to Carolina.

Norris nod: With a standout year for the Senators in his third season, 21-year-old Erik Karlsson was named on of three finalists for Norris Trophy award for best defenseman as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Karlsson, who has been limited to only one point in the first six games of the series, joins Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Nashville’s Shea Weber as candidates.