- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW YORK -- The Rangers might not be looking over their shoulders any more in the standings, but as Brandon Dubinsky says, they’re still looking out the windshield mirror.
While the Rangers have created a little bit of separation from the pack for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, the squad knows its final 10 games will be do-or-die for the Blue Shirts. The Rangers are currently in seventh in the Eastern Conference with 80 points, giving them a four-point cushion over both Buffalo and Carolina, who are tied for eighth with 76 points.
“We have to not look where we are, just keep winning games,” defenseman Dan Girardi said. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the league, we have to win our games, take it one game at a time and if we win our games we’ll be good and we don’t need to start worry about other teams too. As long as we get the job done for ourselves we’ll be OK.”
Behind Carolina and Buffalo, the Rangers are eight points ahead of Atlanta and Toronto, and 10 points ahead of the Devils. Realistically, this sets up a three-team race for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference between the Rangers, Sabres and Hurricanes, while the Rangers and Sabres both have an outside shot of catching Montreal for sixth place.
“Still a whole lot ahead of us, you can’t rest for a second but our emphasis on here is to look ahead of us and this is an important game we had with Montreal so close to us,” forward Ryan Callahan said. “Coming into the game we know it was an important one and we can’t have a let up here we have to keep going.”
It wasn’t that long ago that the Rangers were neck and neck with other teams for one of the playoff spots, but a 5-1 record in the last six games has been key. While they are still battling, there is at least some breathing room for the Blue Shirts for the home stretch, with five of the final 10 games coming against teams currently in the playoffs.
“We’re still fighting for our lives,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “You have to keep on winning. The main concentration is taking care of our business and not worry about a result but worry about playing the right way. I think our guys have been consistent with that after a bit of a struggle there defensively against Anaheim.”
37dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald