Thursday night is shaping up to be a big, big night as far as the Rangers are concerned.
While the Blueshirts attempt to keep their playoff hopes going in New Jersey against the Devils, all of the clubs near the Rangers (73 points) in the standings are in action tonight.
Although the Blueshirts are still gunning for the postseason, they’ll surely be keeping an eye on the bottom of the standings, as well. Should they miss the playoffs, they’ll be hoping to land as high a draft pick as possible.
Here are some brief thoughts on tonight’s action.
Tampa Bay (70 points) at Boston (78 points)
The Rangers will be cheering for the Lightning for two reasons. First, a Boston loss helps the Rangers chances at landing that eights and final playoff spot. Second, the Bolts are just three points back of the Rangers heading into tonight’s action.
Calgary (83 points) at Islanders (68 points)
After last night’s pathetic showing against the Rangers, the Islanders may already be looking ahead to June’s draft. But the Rangers are still just five points ahead of their suburban rivals.
Washington (108 points) at Carolina (69 points)
The Hurricanes have lost two straight after going on a bit of a run following the Olympic break. They’ve been near the bottom all season long, but they did beat the first place Caps in their previous meeting, a 4-3 overtime victory on March 18.
Seeing as how several former ‘Canes were dealt to Washington at the trade deadline, perhaps the competitive juices will be flowing again tonight.
Toronto (64 points) at Atlanta (75 points)
Nothing would be more disappointing for the Rangers than a ninth-place finish at season’s end. At the same time, they’ll have to surpass Atlanta if they hope to make the playoffs.
As for the Leafs, they’ve all but secured a spot as one of the league’s two worst teams. Unfortunately for them, their first-round pick belongs to the Boston Bruins as a result of last summer’s Phil Kessel trade.
Chicago (99 points) at Columbus (70 points)
The Blue Jackets will face a tough test tonight following a 6-3 spanking at the hands of the Devils in their previous game. Other than the league-worst Edmonton Oilers, Columbus is the only Western Conference team below the Rangers in the standings heading into Thursday night.
Florida (71 points) at Montreal (80 points)
The Panthers are just two points back of the Rangers with a game in hand, and have won two in a row. If the Rangers still have slim playoff hopes, than surely the Cats, who haven’t qualified for the postseason since the 1999-2000 season, do as well.
Los Angeles (90 points) at St. Louis (77 points)
The Blues, losers of two consecutive games, will have a tough test on their hands against the Kings, who still have their eyes set on finishing in one of the top four spots in the Western Conference and locking up home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
Dallas (78 points) at San Jose (98 points)
After a rough couple of weeks, the Sharks got back on track with a 4-1 victory over Minnesota on March 23. Just one point behind the Blackhawks in the race for the first seed in the West, the Stars should have their hands full.