You’d think if there was one person that understood the intensity of the Rangers-Devils rivalry, Mike Rupp would be the guy.
He was front-and-center during the infamous Mar. 19 line brawl. He’s also one of the few to play for both New York and New Jersey, scoring the Cup-winning goal for the Devils in 2003.
Yet heading into tonight’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Rupp downplayed the rivalry entirely.
“At this point in the playoffs it’s more for the fans and the media to have fun with than us,” he told the New York Times. “We’re just trying to win four games.
“Right now you’re four wins away from getting to where you’ve been working so hard to get to as a team. So I don’t really think about that, I really don’t. I really don’t look at me once playing for them, or them being one of our biggest rivals. That’s kind of nonexistent right now.”
What Rupp might be focused on is trying to conjure up more big-game magic. For a relatively unassuming journeyman — he’s played for five different teams over a 10-year career — Rupp has often found himself in the spotlight.
— He’s the only player in Stanley Cup history to have his first playoff goal be the Cup-winner. (He was notched four points in four games for the Devils during the 2003 finals.)
— In 2011, Rupp had one of the most spirited fights in Winter Classic, chucking knuckles with Washington defenseman John Erskine:
— A year later, Rupp stole the show at the 2012 Winter Classic, scoring twice. He also raised a few eyebrows by doing the Jagr salute:
Another thing to consider: Rupp is due.
Like, long overdue.
He’s scoreless through 14 postseason games, meaning his pointless streak goes all the way back to Feb. 16 — 40 games all-told.
The Vancouver Canucks have called up defenseman Jordan Subban from the AHL.
Subban, the youngest brother of Nashville’s P.K. Subban, has nine goals and 13 assists in 34 games for the Utica Comets this season. The 21-year-old is not very big, and he’s had to work on his defensive play, but as his statistics suggest, he does have good offensive abilities.
It remains to be seen if Subban will actually play for the Canucks, who host Florida tomorrow and then hit the road for a three-game road trip starting Sunday in Chicago. Vancouver also announced today that d-man Andrey Pedan has been reassigned to the AHL. Pedan’s 30-days waivers exemption was set to expire today; hence, that move.
Subban is unlikely to get into the lineup unless Troy Stecher is unable to play. Stecher has reportedly been battling the flu and only logged 11:50 of ice time in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Nashville.
The 20-year-old is in the midst of an awful slump. Bennett hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 27 and is pointless in his last 10 games — not the kind of production the team was anticipating, especially after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in his rookie campaign last season.
“It’s frustrating when you’re not producing,” Bennett said earlier this week, per the Calgary Sun. “I want to contribute offensively. But just playing the right way is my main focus. Hopefully, I keep getting chances and eventually one has gotta go in.”
Micheal Ferland will move into the lineup to replace Bennett, and veteran Matt Stajan will be bumped up to the third-line center spot as a result.
Given his pedigree and draft position, expectations for Bennett are pretty high. Calgary anticipated he’d be part of the young, talented forward group that carries the load offensively, alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.
And to be fair, Bennett did have a decent start to the year, with 12 points through his first 24 games.
In the wake of last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks, the Kings’ head coach was no doubt referring to the likes of Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, each of whom has just four goals this season.
Though Gaborik did manage to score last night, Kopitar didn’t. The captain has just one goal in his last 16 games. And for $10 million a season, it’s not enough to be good defensively.
“You need those top guys to make a difference,” said Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “You’re going to be in one-goal games, lots of ‘em. How many have we had this year? I mean, how many times? I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.”
Gaborik’s produced lately, with three goals in his last six games. That needs to continue, and Kopitar needs to find his scoring touch.
The Kings (22-19-4) kick off a five-game road trip Saturday in Brooklyn. After 45 games, they’re barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, with Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, and Winnipeg all within striking distance.
It’s worth noting that only four teams have fewer regulation victories than the Kings have (12). If not for their 9-1 record in overtime, they might really be in trouble.