Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rangers Aim High after Bitter Finish

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rangers Aim High after Bitter Finish

Article excerpt

CHICAGO - Having mastered the near miss, there's every reason to believe the Rangers should remain among the NHL's elite. So, yes, it's still Stanley Cup or bust for a franchise that has not won since 1994.

But if the expectations are again heightened in 2015-16, so is the level of desperation to finally take the last step.

"Yeah, a lot of desperation," said left wing Rick Nash, 31. "With good teams, you always have a window of a few years when everyone is clicking, and I think we know we're in the middle of our window right now to get the job done."

In a cruel twist of hockey irony, the Rangers open their season tonight at United Center, where the Blackhawks will raise their third Stanley Cup banner since 2010.

The Rangers, participants in three of the last four Eastern Conference finals, fell one game short of a return trip to the Cup Final after losing to the Lightning, 2-0, in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden with defenseman Ryan McDonagh (broken foot), defenseman Marc Staal (ankle), Dan Girardi (ankle) and Keith Yandle (shoulder) all playing hurt.

For the players, it was a heartbreaking end to a season in which New York set franchise records with 53 wins and 113 points, good for the Presidents' Trophy.

"It's definitely there," said Staal, 28, of the urgency felt to lift the Cup. "We've had some great runs and great playoff experience without having finished it off. It's definitely something that we look at and want to accomplish."

"We expect to be up there," said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who will be 34 by the time the postseason begins. "Honestly, it's sometimes tougher to have higher expectations, but you have to embrace it because you want to be there. You want to fight for it."

Lundqvist, again looking to start 60-plus games after missing two months last season with a neck injury, is still one of the league's elite goalies. The Rangers' overall team speed, even with Carl Hagelin's salary dumped to the Ducks, also is among the best in the NHL.

But the schedule is challenging. The Rangers have 17 back-to- back games, the second-most in the league, and 15 sets of three games in four days. …

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