- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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At a glance: After backing into a playoff spot on Monday night, the New York Rangers were able to avoid an emotional letdown against the Carolina Hurricanes, dispatching the Canes 4-1 the next night. The Blueshirts want to retain that focus on Thursday, when they host their last game of the regular season at Madison Square Garden against another non-playoff opponent, the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres, currently in last place in the entire league by a wide margin, have dropped four straight games.
All eight decided: Wednesday’s action set the Eastern Conference playoff teams in stone, even if positioning is still up for grabs. Most notably, the Detroit Red Wings secured their 23rd consecutive playoff berth, while the Columbus Blue Jackets made the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. While it looks likely the Rangers will draw the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, home-ice advantage is at stake with New York leading by two points in the standings though the Flyers have one game in hand. If the two clubs finish with the same number of points, the Rangers currently own the next tiebreaker with two more non-shootout wins than their Metropolitan Division foes.
Saturday return?: Injured defenseman Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) took Thursday off instead of partaking in the team’s optional morning skate, though the plan is for him to skate on his own Friday before the team departs for their regular-season finale in Montreal. Coach Alain Vigneault remains undecided on whether he would play McDonagh against the Montreal Canadiens even if the 24-year-old is healthy.
Tight-lipped: Though we already know that McDonagh is suffering from an injured left shoulder and Chris Kreider is sidelined with a fractured left hand, don’t expect to get much more from the Rangers in the coming days on the injury front. Vigneault vowed to keep his cards close to the vest as the postseason begins to protect his players in a seven-game series against any opponent that may look to exploit the Rangers' weaknesses.
Power surge: After coming up short on all seven attempts in their previous two games, the Rangers’ power-play showed signs of life Tuesday night against Carolina with a pair of man-up goals and an impressive 2-for-3 success rate. The special-teams unit could be a huge boost for the club moving forward if it continues to yield production. In the past, the power play has been the team’s Achilles heel. This spring it might actually be a threat.