The Rangers plan to make the most of their playoff advantage on home ice

Home field advantage is always important for a playoff-tied NHL team like Rangers. It means just a little bit more this year as they played most of their games to empty or half-empty arenas for two seasons.

The Rangers’ 6-3 win over the Islanders on Thursday night earned them the right to play four games (Games 1, 2, 5 and 7) of their first-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden. It marks the 27th time in franchise history that the Rangers have opened a playoff matchup on home ice and the first time since the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning.

“I think it’s very important,” said Kevin Rooney. “Last year when I came here new to the team I heard a lot about playing at MSG. With only 2,500 fans, you don’t really feel that. And this year it was just remarkable. The support they gave us. I can even think of some street games spontaneously, in Phoenix, they’re fantastic, travel so well.

“Just playing in front of them to start the playoffs is great and we’re looking forward to playing at home because we’re really comfortable there.”

The Rangers have won 10 of their last 12 best-of-seven playoff series, which began on home ice and stretched back to the 1994 Conference Quarterfinals against the Islanders. The Rangers will play their final away game of the regular season in Boston on Saturday before concluding with three games at the Garden against the Hurricanes, Canadiens and Capitals.

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While Rangers’ home record is strong at 26-8-4, their 25-13-2 performance on the road is equally compelling.

“They want home ice for the playoffs,” said Ryan Reaves. “Especially here that is of course an advantage. It doesn’t really matter who you play against, because you have to go through the best teams in this division anyway. It’s always nice to have the ice cream at home, start at home. When it comes to game 7, you can be safe at home. We will keep trying to climb.”

When asked how much home field advantage really matters, head coach Gerard Gallant said it did for Game 7, but not so much otherwise.

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenière (C) celebrates scoring their first goal
Rangers are poised to play up to four games in front of the Garden crowd in the opening round of the playoffs.
Jason Scenes for the New York Post

“Well, if you win your first two games, that’s important,” Gallant said with a smile. “I think it matters personally in Game 7. That is for me. It’s back and forth, back and forth for the first six games, but in Game 7 I think it’s an advantage for your team. Play the games no matter where you are.

“Sometimes you have to win big games away from home, which is what we did this season. And we had a pretty good home record. I think you deserve your home ice cream.”

Gallant said Kaapo Kakko is on track to return to the playoffs and he hopes the Finland winger can return to the lineup at some point in the final four games of the regular season.

“He went ice skating today,” he said. “I think he did quite well. We’ll just take it day by day. I fully expect [him to return for the playoffs]. That hasn’t changed in my opinion. We’ll see how he copes. I still think he will play next week but I’m not trying to put pressure on anyone. I just hope he’s ready to play and we feel that.” The Rangers plan to make the most of their playoff advantage on home ice


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