A 3-0 win by the Carolina Hurricanes over the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday will prevent the Rangers from clinching a playoff berth with a win Thursday night, but a W is no less important when the Blueshirts battle the Thrashers. Here are three keys to watch for when the action starts.
As I wrote yesterday, Ryan Callahan brings a lot to the table, but his production isn't completely irreplaceable. The toughest component will be his scoring, which means it's time for some of the Blueshirts' secondary scorers to pick up the slack and their primary sniper to start playing up to his usual lethal abilities. The Thrashers could provide a great opportunity for some momentum, seeing as how they give up 3.18 goals per game, the second highest average in the NHL.
A Little Wing
If D Matt Gilroy looks like he's out of position all night, he's not, he's just filling in as a fourth line winger with Callahan hurt. Anything they get out of Gilroy for tonight will be a bonus. Expect him to see fewer that 10 minutes of ice time and the Rangers to make a tweak to the roster before the (::knock on wood::) playoffs begin.
The Rangers could be riding high after their epic 5-3 comeback against the Bruins or they could be down after losing emotional leader Callahan. The Blueshirts can't afford time to fret over their fallen comrade just now, especially when they could crush the Thrash early. Atlanta allowed six goals in their last game against the Nashville Predators and the Thrash looked like a team about to pack it in for the year. If the Rangers can jump out with a few goals, maybe they can change the Thrasher locker room discussion from second-period adjustments to next week's tee times.