New York Rangers Know What Is at Stake in Buffalo Wednesday Night

Matthew CalamiaCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 24: Brandon Prust #8 of the New York Rangers celebrates scoring the game tying goal during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden on March 24, 2011 in New York City. The Senators defeated the Rangers 2-1 in a shootout. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

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.

Fast-forward a month and the Rangers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

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.

They're currently tied in points with Montreal (although the Habs have more regulation/overtime victories), and only four points behind fifth place Tampa Bay.

“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.