At a glance: Sputtering after two straight losses, the New York Rangers have lost their grip on a place within the Eastern Conference playoff race, falling to third place in the Metropolitan Division standings and just one point from dropping out of the last wild card spot. The Blueshirts conclude a back-to-back set against a Winnipeg Jets squad desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Around the East: Though the Philadelphia Flyers, who currently hold the last wild card spot in the East, are idle until Saturday, the Rangers can’t afford to suffer another regulation loss on Friday. That’s because three teams within spitting distance of New York -– Detroit, New Jersey, and Washington -– all play Friday as well, as they try to climb back into the playoff picture.
Back to Hank: Backup netminder Cam Talbot did more than enough to give the Rangers a chance to win Thursday night, but it will be starter Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes Friday and on Sunday when the team returns home to host the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden. Though playoff position is surely enough motivation to knock off the Jets, Lundqvist has some extra incentive Friday night as he looks to tie Mike Richter’s franchise record 301 NHL wins. Lundqvist most recently gave up three goals in an abysmal performance against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Still searching: Trade-deadline acquisition Martin St. Louis is still looking for that elusive first goal as a New York Ranger, while his counterpart in last week’s shocking captain swap, Ryan Callahan, tallied in Tampa Bay’s win over the Florida Panthers Thursday night. St. Louis, who has 29 goals and 62 points this season, has registered just one assist with his new team. That’s a dry spell the Rangers need to see end, and soon. It does appear that St. Louis is getting ample opportunity, however. He’s had 18 shots on goal in the past five games and was employed on the point of the second power-play unit Thursday night.
Nose dive: The Jets are seeing their playoff hopes grow dimmer by the day following their recent skid. Winnipeg has dropped five straight games, though they have earned a point in three of those contests. With their season at a critical juncture, the Jets have to hope they can pad some points at home with four of their next five games at the MTS Centre