The Washington Times - May 12, 2012, 01:27PM

NEW YORK | Mike Rupp has played five Game 7s. So has Alex Ovechkin. Keeping things on an even keel is important.

“It’s just riding the emotions the right way. There’s ups and downs in the course of a series and in course of a game. There’s no panic,” Rupp said. “It’s just one of those things, you have to handle those emotions of the game, and if you do so, you put yourself in a good position.”

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Even those in the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals locker rooms without that kind of experience talked about treating Saturday night like any other game. Eat the same food, stick to the same routine and don’t take on excess pressure.

This is our sixth and some people don’t play three in their entire career. I mean, for whatever reason, we seem to find ourselves in these situations. You just have to trust your stuff,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “I mean, don’t overcomplicate things, don’t over-think things. It’s a simple game. If we can limit our mistakes and then try to capitalize on theirs, that’s usually going to be the difference in the hockey game.”

The nerves are there. It’s undeniable.

Obviously you want to think about the game. But in a sense that maybe you don’t want to think about it that ‘Oh this is Game 7, oh this is do-or-die.’ You already know that,” Rangers forward John Mitchell said. “At the same time, you don’t want to make yourself a nervous wreck. Just come prepared to the game just like it’s any other day and just another game. Hopefully your nerves aren’t too high strung.”

Ovechkin wasn’t worried about nerves early Saturday afternoon, with faceoff still over seven hours away.

“I don’t think we gonna be very, very excited right now,” he said. “When game is started, we’re gonna be focusing. We’re gonna know like what we have to do, and everybody knows what we have to do.”

So much of sports is psychological, and Game 7 adds another complication to these players trying to keep their minds on the game and not let them wander.

“It’s going to take a little bit extra to just get your mind straight and keep it even,” Mitchell said. “You don’t want to get too high and you certainly don’t want to get too low.”

Save that for late Saturday night.