Lightning's Stamkos: 'This is far from over'
Lightning centre Steven Stamkos (left) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Rangers during second period action in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final in Tampa, Fla. on May 22, 2015. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
Steven Stamkos had one thing on his mind when he woke up on Tuesday morning.
“My omelette that I was getting,” the Tampa Bay Lightning captain said with a smile following the morning skate at Amalie Arena.
“I’ll put that focus button on when I’m driving to the rink to the game. Not that it’s not on (in the morning), but you don’t have the same feeling you do when you are driving to the rink knowing it is that close to game time.”
And not just any other game, of course. It’s the 101st for the Lightning in 2014-15, and it’s the biggest, as a victory against the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final would send Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup final for the second time in franchise history.
Win and there’s some time off while waiting for the Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks to emerge from the Western Conference; lose and it’s back to New York and Madison Square Garden for Game 7 on Friday.
For the Rangers, elimination games have become a common occurrence in recent playoffs. Starting with the 2012 post-season, this is the Rangers’ 12th series in the past four years, with six of them going to seven games. Two others have been decided in six games, and three in five, with nary a sweep to be found.
In that span, the Rangers have won 14 of the past 17 games in which they have faced elimination.
“For a lot of reasons these games are, for me, almost easier to play because you know if you lose you are going home,” said defenceman Marc Staal, whose 85 playoff games are the fourth most in Rangers history.
“We’ve played a lot of games like this and it’s nothing new for us. But it doesn’t get old. Experience only goes so far and we have to make sure we are at our best. As soon as the puck drops it’s game on and you have to find a way to win.”
Tampa forward Cedric Paquette is questionable after blocking a shot with his hand in Game 5, while defenceman Braydon Coburn, who was sick during that game, will play.
Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, nursing an upper-body injury, skated on Tuesday morning and remains day to day, New York coach Alain Vigneault said.
Coburn wouldn’t have been faulted for staying in the dressing room on Sunday but wanted to be on the bench, no matter that he was ill.
“You never know what happens in playoff hockey,” Coburn said. “If something goes on, you can’t do anything from the dressing room.”
As for that omelette, Stamkos likes his with “a little bacon, tomatoes, assortment of peppers and a little cheese. All organic, of course.”
Stamkos, as was the case when the Lightning eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, is expecting a handful from the Rangers on Tuesday night in what could be their final game.
“This is far from over in our minds,” Stamkos said. “That’s a team that is very resilient over there. We need to have the best game we have played all playoffs to give ourselves a chance to move on.”