At a glance: The New York Rangers host the New Jersey Devils in a series finale with serious playoff implications. By earning one point against their Atlantic Division rivals, the Broadway Blueshirts would become the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff berth. However, their tenuous lead in the standings could take a hit if the Devils knock them off as they did less than two weeks ago. The Rangers remain only one point ahead of the charging Penguins and only three removed from the Flyers.
Standings swing: With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Rangers and Devils continue to jockey for positioning before the postseason begins. While the Rangers have dominated the East for virtually the entire season, their middling play of late has put their lead in jeopardy. They'll have to hold off the high-flying Penguins to avoid slipping to a four-seed, and, while unlikely, a drop to fifth place (and a loss of home-ice advantage) is not out of the realm of possibility. Meanwhile, the Devils look to create some traction after dropping two of their last three to division foes.
A-OK: Although he will not play against the Devils on Monday, Rangers top-six forward Artem Anisimov skated with the team this morning and is doing better than initially feared. The 23-year-old winger told reporters that he was day-to-day after sustaining a left shoulder injury in the team's 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday.
Last time around: Star sniper Ilya Kovalchuk was dominant in boosting the Devils to a 4-1 win over the Rangers, who struggled to match the New Jersey's desperation and intensity level. Said Rangers center Brian Boyle after the game: "They hate us. They wanted to kill us."
Secondary scoring: For the first time in three games, the Rangers' recently constructed first line of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik was held off the scoresheet, and it was no wonder the Rangers lost 3-1 to the Avalanche. The Rangers need other lines to step up, and soon. New York has managed only three goals in the last pair of games.