Jump back in time about a month ago. The New York Rangers had just lost three consecutive home games and seemed dead in the water.
While they were tailspinning out of control and seemingly out of a playoff spot, the teams around them, especially Buffalo, all seemed to be getting hot at the right time.
They have trimmed their magic number to eight (any combination of eight points through wins or Carolina losses) for a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
The Rangers currently sit two points up on the eighth place Sabres, who play tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Buffalo wins that game-in-hand, the two teams will go into tomorrow night's game tied.
Ryan Callahan, the Rangers unofficial captain, said Wednesday's game is "our biggest game of the season."
Callahan added: "It's a playoff-style game, and we have to win it.
"We are in control of our own fate," Callahan said, "but our focus is ahead of us, not behind us."
The Rangers seem to understand what is at stake tomorrow. Although there are still five games following tomorrow's contest, they want to keep rolling.
“We’re trying to get up in the standings and stay up for the rest of the year," said Brandon Dubinsky, who also said the team is looking to eliminate Carolina from the mix to clinch a spot in the big dance.
"If Carolina somehow doesn’t win, we can win two games and get into the playoffs and it would certainly be a heck of a lot nicer to not go into Sunday not having to win.”
Carolina visits the Washington Capitals tonight, who may have Alex Ovechkin back in the lineup. The Capitals still have plenty to play for, as they are only two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the top spot in the East.