- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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PLAYOFF PUSH: Both teams have just 12 games left on their season and need to pick up points any way possible. The Rangers are currently tied for seventh with 76 points, but just four points ahead of Carolina, who has a game in hand. The Islanders, meanwhile, are 11 points out of the playoffs and essentially to be near perfect to try and claim one of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference. With Carolina (9th) and Buffalo (7th) battling tonight, as well a Atlanta (10th) and New Jersey (12th), this is a key night for both teams to get points.
CAN THEY KEEP IT UP?: Since Feb. 10, the Islanders are 10-3-4, gathering 24 of a possible 34 points. While it may be too little too late, the Islanders are playing their best hockey at the end of the season and have not lost in regulation in their past seven games. To have any shot at the playoffs, they need to keep up this torrid pace.
PROTECT THIS HOUSE: It’s safe to say that the Rangers have not been very good at home this season. The Blue Shirts are just 15-16-3 on their home ice, compared to just 21-14-1 on the road. Before beating Philadelphia at home on March 6 ,the Rangers had lost their previous four games at home in regulation. With seven of their final 12 games at home, the Rangers need to do a much better job at home if they want to get one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders enter tonight just 11-17-6 on the road, allowing the Rangers to right the ship against a bad road team.
“I get asked that all the time as far as what’s going on at home and I can’t put my finger on a specific thing that we can change to help us win,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “I think we’ve done some really good things at home and lost games, we’ve done some really good things on the road and we’ve lost games, we’ve had good starts here, we’ve had bad starts, same thing on the road. It’s just a matter of when we lose a hockey game, we’ve been competitive all year long in all our games, maybe except for three or four games, it’s just making a big play at a big time, maybe not having a big mistake at a big time. I can’t differentiate home or away.”
NO TIME TO REST: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be playing in his 15th straight game tonight. Backup goalie Martin Biron fractured his collarbone during practice on Feb. 28, forcing the Rangers to ride Lundqvist as much as possible down the stretch. While Tortorella said he has faith in backup Chad Johnson, it appears the Rangers will use Lundqvist until theey have ot give him a break. This 15-game streak of starts is Lundqvist's longest on the season, surpassing his 11-game stretch from Nov. 24 to Dec. 15. The Rangers have just two back-to-back games left this season, so Lundqvist might just sit one or two games in the final 12--if any.
PLAYOFF PUSH: Both teams have just 12 games left on their season and need to pick up points any way possible. The Rangers are currently tied for seventh with 76 points, but just four points ahead of Carolina, who has a game in hand.