It’s that time of year, when seemingly every game matters. Case in point tonight’s road game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers are sitting in seventh place, with just five games remaining. Just three points behind the Flyers and Penguins who’re tied for fourth, but also just two points ahead of the Panthers in 9th – and they have a game in hand.
A win tonight, and the Rangers move into a tie with the sixth placed Hurricanes, and would sit just one point out of home ice in the first round. A loss, and a Canadiens win over the Islanders, and their playoff destiny will be in the hands of other teams. Your mission should you accept it – face up to a team that has won six straight games, and has won nine straight at home – including a shutout of the Rangers.
Oh yeah, the road still isn’t such a hot place for the Rangers, who come into Carolina with a 1-2-1 record in their last four games away from MSG. The one win, a shootout victory over the Canadiens.
Sound like your kind of evening? Methinks there will be plenty of angst in the game thread tonight.
At least one Ranger player doesn’t seem to have any concerns about the situation the team finds it in. Sean Avery has been there before with the Rangers, and was a big part of a late season surge two years ago that saw the Rangers climb into the playoffs with a solid run.
The Rangers may welcome Michal Rozsival back into the line-up tonight. If he can go, then Corey Potter – who played well against the Devils – will likely get to spend some quality time in the luxury box.
Checkers rally but fall short
The Checkers lost 3-2 to the team they’ll meet in the first round of the playoffs – South Carolina. Rallying from a 2-0 third period deficit on goals by Matt Ford and Ryan Hillier just 48 seconds apart, the Checkers could not sustain their momentum and conceded the game winner with 7:29 remaining in regulation.
Neither of the teams with Rangers prospects on them made it to the second round of this year’s QMJHL playoffs. Antoine LaFleur did not appear in any of the games in Rouyn-Noranda’s 4-2 series loss to Montreal. Chris Doyle had 2 goals and 2 assists in the 4-1 series loss for PEI.
Mitch Gaulton and the Erie Otters packed up their equipment for the final time this season, after losing their first round series 4-1 to the London Knights. Gaulton was held without a point in the series and finished -1 with 4 penalty minutes.
Michael Del Zotto and the Knights open their second round against Saginaw tonight. The Rangers’ 2009 1st round pick had a goal and seven assists in the first round series win.
Evgeni Grachev and the Battalion also start their second round tonight against Mississauga. Grachev has four goals and four assists from the four game series defeat of Peterborough.
Tomas Kundratek and the Medicine Hat Tigers came back from a 2-3 series deficit to win the final two games and advance to the second round. Kundratek had 3 assists and was a +3 in the seven game series. Tysen Dowzak and the Kelowna Rockets begin their second round series tomorrow night at Tri-city. Dowzak was a +4 in the 4-0 sweep of the Blazers.
The only Ranger prospect remaining in the NCAA tournament – Carl Hagelin – saw his and Michigan’s season come to a disappointing end with a 2-0 upset by Air Force over the weekend. The Michigan Wolverines were heavily favored to win the game, but could not find a way to keep their season going.
Just a note, due to eligibility requirements, Ranger prospects playing for the NCAA cannot play for Hartford without giving up their remaining college years. Antoine LaFleur, Mitch Gaulton and Chris Doyle could all theoretically join the Wolf Pack if the Rangers believe that’s in their best interests.