With or without Ryan Callahan—and without Mats Zuccarello for three weeks—the New York Rangers need to match their pre-Olympic break competition level for the remainder of the 2013-14 season if they want to be in position to make a strong playoff push.
At first glance, it may look like a favorable schedule for the Rangers.
Thirteen of their final 23 games are against teams currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture; however, that includes two against Ottawa (one point out), one against Columbus (one point out), three against Carolina (three points out), one against New Jersey (three points out), one against Vancouver (one point out) and one against Phoenix (tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference).
The other four games? One is in Winnipeg a day after a game in Minnesota, and two of them are during a four-game trip to the West, against Calgary and Edmonton, respectively. Then, possibly their only real break, will come against Buffalo on April 10 at Madison Square Garden.
Of all of these games where crucial points are on the line, here are the five most anticipated, important matchups the Rangers face returning from Sochi.