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.