The Rangers are preparing for a crucial matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, which could determine the final playoff picture as the season comes to a close.
With just three games left for the Blue Shirts, they trail Carolina 112–108 in the Metropolitan Division standings, with the 1st place team guaranteed home ice throughout the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If the Rangers manage to top the Hurricanes in regulation, they would pull within one point of surpassing Carolina, and could cap their late-season push to overtake the number one seed. If they were to win in overtime, they would still trail by a 113–110 margin, and likely be relegated to second place heading into the postseason.
The number one seeded team plays against one of the two Eastern Conference Wild Card teams, while the second place divisional finisher will face off against the third place team — which is currently the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The opening puck drop will come at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, with the Hurricanes visiting New York for the second time this season. The previous three matchups between the teams saw Carolina win 2 games, while the Rangers beat their division rival on March 20.
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The Rangers clinched a playoff berth on April 9 for the first time in 5 years, and they will have home ice in at least one postseason series — though, if the Hurricanes manage to hold on to first place, the Blue Shirts would need to win a 7 game road series in the second round, assuming New York and Carolina both advance to that stage.
The Rangers have played fairly well on the road this year, but their home games have produced better results — as they’ve gone 26-8-4 at Madison Square Garden, while producing a 25-14-2 record in opposing stadiums.
“When you’re having the season that we’re having, you want to get home ice — that’s the next goal,” said Head Coach Gerard Gallant earlier this month.
“It’s definitely a goal — we want to finish first,” he added. “But we’re going to take it one game at a time, and see what happens.”
So far this season, the Rangers have leaned heavily on their star-powered first line, with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Adam Fox accounting for 323 points — or 49.1% of the team’s total 657 points.
Kreider is third in the NHL for goals scored this season at 51. Ranger goalie Igor Shesterkin, meanwhile, has also contributed significantly to the team’s success, as his .936 save percentage leads the league.