Six teams for four spots. That's the scenario currently staring the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs in the face. Now having won three in a row, the Blueshirts find themselves in significantly better shape than they were in before the weekend.
By knocking off the Jackets and Devils Friday and Saturday respectively, the Rangers firmly gained control of their own destiny. Now three points up on Washington, and four ahead of Columbus for third in the Metropolitan Division, if the Blueshirts win, they're in–neither the Caps nor Jackets would be able to catch them. Of course, with ten to play, not even the most cockeyed optimist could realistically expect the Rangers to win out, but the fact remains that the Blueshirts are now dealing from a position of power in regards to their standing in the Metropolitan.
They got some much appreciated help — from an unexpected source — too, when the Islanders, playing without practically half their original roster, shutout Columbus Sunday. On the Wild Card front, Toronto, which seemed a lock to make the playoffs a week ago, has imploded, dropping five in a row, and hasn't gleaned so much as a single point from a game since March 13th. The Leafs are still clinging to the final Wild Card birth, but in the midst of a tailspin, and with one more game played than any of the other five teams in contention, are now in dire straits.
Philadelphia (5 in a row), the wounded Wings (3 of 4) and resurgent Washington (4 of 5) continue to win, and the Devils, with 75 points, remain just barely relevant, but would need multiple teams to collapse in order to get in.
- The flu bug has hit the Rangers, and could affect tonight's lineup against Phoenix. Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan are both game time decisions. Derek Dorsett still has some lingering affects from his own battle with the bug, but skated this morning. J.T. Miller will be recalled on an emergency basis in case Stepan and St. Louis can't go.
- John Moore (concussion) didn't skate this morning, but reportedly is feeling better.
- Get used to hearing this: Henrik Lundqvist will be in net. He could potentially get a rest in Calgary or Edmonton, but very well may be asked to run the table.
- Expect another intense game tonight. Phoenix, like so many teams right now, is desperate for points. The Coyotes are just two points up on Dallas for the West's final Wild Card spot.