The New York Rangers find themselves in a far different position than they were at this time one year ago. In 2012, the top-seeded Blueshirts were in the midst of their first round playoff series with the eighth seeded Ottawa Senators. Flip the calendars to 2013, and the Rangers are treading water to remain among the top eight in the East. Since their trade deadline moves, they’ve gone 3-1-1. But they blew an opportunity to close the gap between eight place and fifth place by allowing the Toronto Maple Leafs to get three points in their home-and-home earlier in the week. With seven games remaining, despite the inconsistencies throughout the condensed season, the Rangers still have control of their playoff destiny. With Pittsburgh atop the East, and Boston and Montreal jockeying for second place, it would be in the Rangers best interest to get the sixth seed. The Rangers are a combined 3-7-1 against those three teams (including being swept by the Habs), and getting to sixth would match them against the Southeast Division winner (NYR’s combined record against Washington and Winnipeg is 3-2-1). Here is how the rest of their schedule shapes up:
SATURDAY 4/13 – at NEW YORK ISLANDERS
-No matter who is where in the standings, these two always kick it up a notch when facing one another. It’s been a long time since these two met with the Islanders ahead of the Rangers in the standings this late in the season. The Isles are playing great hockey, and are 8-1-1 in their last ten games. The Islanders have a two point edge over the Rangers at the moment, and sit in seventh place in the East. This is the last opponent the Rangers have on their remaining schedule that is currently above .500. Both fan bases are excited for this crucial match-up at Nassau Coliseum. To give you an idea, the cheapest seat on StubHub is currently selling for $159.00
TUESDAY 4/16 – at PHILADELPHIA
-The Flyers are seven points out of eighth place in the East. While they are mathematically alive, they haven’t played like a team that is capable of making a run. If Philadelphia doesn’t have a strong weekend, this could be the beginning of their season-ending run as a spoiler. The Rangers have gone 3-1 against Philly so far.
THURSDAY 4/18 & TUES 4/23 – FLORIDA
-The last time these two met, the Panthers won 3-1 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers looked about as flat as could be, and this loss started a 1-3-1 stretch to close the month of March. The Panthers are currently jockeying for last overall place in the NHL, and the Blueshirts need to get four points in these two meetings. They’ll be at MSG on the 18th, and the BB&T Center on the 23rd.
FRIDAY 4/19 at BUFFALO
-The Sabres are only six points of the last playoff spot in the East. But much like the Flyers, Buffalo hasn’t done anything to make you think they are capable of getting on a hot streak to close the season. The Rangers are 1-1-0 against the Sabres this season. This will be their first meeting where both Brad Richards and Patrick Kaleta are in the line-up for their respective teams since Kaleta boarded Brad Richards on March 3rd.
THURSDAY 4/25 at CAROLINA
-This is another game that falls in to the “Have to get 2 points” category. Carolina started off the year strong, but have gone 1-13-1 since March 14th. The Rangers have won both meetings against Carolina this season.
SUNDAY 4/21 & SATURDAY 4/27 vs NEW JERSEY
-One thing the Rangers should be extremely grateful for is the Devils lackluster play down the stretch. Since a victory over the Flyers on March 13th, New Jersey has gone 2-6-5. They’re currently in tenth place, four points out of eighth in the East. These games could be the difference between a playoff spot or an early May tee-time. These teams split their two meetings at the Prudential Center earlier in the season.