Slowly but surely, the playoff picture is becoming clearer for the Rangers.
The Blueshirts (93 points) clinched a playoff berth on Monday, beat Carolina on Tuesday and can secure a top-three finish in the Metropolitan Division with a win tonight in their home finale against the Sabres.
Buffalo (51 points) trails the NHL’s second-worst team, the Panthers, by 13 points and does not pose much of a threat tonight. With a win, the Rangers will ensure that they will not be a wild card in the postseason, thus avoiding a first-round matchup with either the Bruins or Penguins, arguably the two most dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference.
It is looking more certain by the day that the Rangers will face the Flyers in the first round. The two teams haven’t matched up in the postseason since the 1996-97 season, when the Flyers needed just five games to oust the Blueshirts in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Rangers need to keep winning in order to secure home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They currently hold a two-point lead over the Flyers, who face the Lightning tonight, for that luxury.
A Rangers win tonight against the hapless Sabres would go a long way.