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Rangers are focusing on beating Sabres, not clinching playoff spot

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers reacts

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers reacts after surrendering the overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, March 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Although the idle Rangers had a chance to clinch a Stanley Cup playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season Friday night, the Blueshirts and their coaches had a singular focus: beating the Buffalo Sabres at home Saturday night.

The Rangers needed Detroit to lose, but the Red Wings beat the Wild, 3-2, on Friday night. It also would have helped the Rangers’ cause if Boston had lost, but the Bruins beat St. Louis, 6-5.

So earlier in the day, there was more emphasis on taking care of business against the Sabres rather than fretting over Friday night’s results. After practice, Tanner Glass said he wouldn’t be up late scoreboard-watching.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot based on the way we played in the first 70-plus games with five games to go,’’ Glass said. “So it’s important to be confident. You just want to play well and finish well.”

J.T. Miller dismissed the possibility of other teams opening the door for the Rangers. “I don’t worry about that,” he said. “We can’t control what other teams do, but we can control ourselves. We have to worry about playing well Saturday from the start. We should be confident; when we play well, we know we’re a really good team.’’

Henrik Lundqvist, one of the more disappointed players after the Rangers lost to the Hurricanes, 4-3, on Thursday night when they could have clinched a playoff spot with a regulation or overtime win, was more upbeat Friday.

“We’ve had a lot of tight games lately — some went our way and some didn’t — but we’re still in a pretty good spot,” he said. “There’s a lot of teams who have the same expectations and they’re not in our spot, so it’s important to feel good about where we are. You don’t overthink the situation . . . We have to get together and push ourselves.”

The Rangers have beaten the Sabres (32-35-11) in two previous games, but playing a young team with the postseason out of reach “doesn’t change our approach,” coach Alain Vig neault said. “A lot of our issues have been decisions with the puck. We have to be better at that.”

No pre-scouting of potential playoff opponents has begun. “Look at all the possibilities on where we could finish,” Vigneault said. “I’ve said this a few times: If you have home-ice advantage, you say it’s a good thing; if you don’t, you say it’s not that big of a deal. Right now, we want to play a good 60 minutes tomorrow.”


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