GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — If you didn't know the top-seeded New York Rangers were one loss away from elimination, the low-key practice before their biggest game of the season wouldn't have given away the dire circumstances.
After their best seasons in years, the Rangers are trailing the No. 8 seed, the Ottawa Senators, 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. If New York doesn't win on the road Monday night and then capture Game 7 back at home on Thursday night, the 51 wins and the first-place finishes in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference won't mean a thing.
Adorned on the high wall at the Rangers' suburban practice facility is a motivational saying that can be seen on either side of the circular dressing room: "Everyone wants to win ... not everyone is willing to prepare to win."
Of the 22 previous times the Rangers were tied 2-2 in a series, the Game 5 winner advanced 20 times. That doesn't bode well for New York, which has been knocked out of the first round in both previous years coach John Tortorella led the club to the playoffs.
The Rangers, who dropped Games 4 and 5, lost three in a row during the regular season only twice - including the first three games they played.
"Whoever is going to win has to win four," Rangers forward Brad Richards said, "and no one has done that yet."
Only 11 players took the ice Sunday in what could have been the Rangers' final practice of the season, and many of them aren't likely to be in the Game 6 lineup Monday in Ottawa. One player who will, is Carl Hagelin - the speedy rookie forward who finished serving a three-game suspension Saturday night when New York lost 2-0 at home.
Hagelin has been eager to get back in the lineup ever since his wayward elbow to the head of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2 landed him in trouble with the NHL and earned him the three-game ban. New York lost that game and then two of the three Hagelin missed to fall into this precarious position.
"I'm excited to get back," Hagelin said Sunday, still wearing his helmet and practice gear. "We're down 3-2. We want to get the next one, and that's the only thing on my mind right now."
Coyotes try to close
CHICAGO -- So close has the series between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks been that one little bounce of the puck, one fumble along the boards or one faceoff win can be the difference between celebrating a victory and swallowing a loss.
Five straight games have been decided in overtime and who would dare say it won't go to six when the teams meet again tonight (10 p.m., NBCSN) with the Coyotes leading, 3-2.
It's so even and unpredictable that both teams have triumphed twice on the road with Chicago's 2-1 victory Saturday night in Glendale, Ariz., sending the series back to the United Center.
"We're going home, which is going to be good, and try to get a lift from the fans and try to get a big win," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said after Game Five.
"We got to push it to the seventh and try to come back here, but at the same time we're not looking too far past the next game, we got to come out with a good start and play a full 60."
Must-win for Amerks
ROCHESTER -- It is win or go home for the Rochester Americans, who trail the Toronto Marlies, 2-0, in their best-of-five Calder Cup playoff series.
The Amerks host the Marlies in Blue Cross Arena tonight at 7:05.
"We're at one game now, but we've been that way the whole time," Amerks coach Ron Rolston told Sabres.com. "We've just been focused on a period at a time."