COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Blue Jackets have had a forgettable season, but playing spoiler against the Rangers would provide a little sweetener before the summer.
On Monday night, the Blueshirts will get their third straight crack at clinching a playoff berth, a spot that many assumed would have been secured by now. This time it will be against Columbus, former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s team.
The Rangers, who didn’t practice Sunday, failed to punch a ticket to the postseason with losses to Carolina and Buffalo and want to put an end to their slide as soon as possible. A win of any kind by the Rangers at Nationwide Arena would clinch a playoff berth.
“We have to find a way to play our game right from the drop of the puck at Columbus,” Derek Stepan said, pinpointing just one of the issues that threatens to push a clincher deeper into this week.
The Rangers, who have 95 points and are in third place in the Metropolitan Division, have three home games remaining against the Lightning, the Islanders and the Red Wings after Monday night.
“For a goalie, but also as a team, we need short memories,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who could have added that the Rangers also should forget their 3-0 regular-season record against the Blue Jackets, who are 17-16-6 at home.
“It’s not going to come for free,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough game every night, and that’s what we expect in the next one as well.”
So surely there is incentive, but that alone hasn’t been enough in the last two 4-3 regulation losses, when even a point would have inched the Rangers closer to closure. Both the Hurricanes and Sabres had lost nine straight to the Blueshirts; the Blue Jackets are 0-4-2 in their last six against the Rangers.
Under Tortorella, the Blue Jackets — who fired coach Todd Richards after an 0-7 start — are 31-32-8. He undoubtedly will urge his players to consider the game a playoff matchup.
Lundqvist is expected to start for the Rangers. Joonas Korpisalo, 21, who has won three of his last five starts, is expected to be in net for the Blue Jackets.
Notes & quotes: Lundqvist has a five-game winning streak against the Blue Jackets dating to March 21, 2014, with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. Antti Raanta was in goal for the Rangers’ 2-1 win over Columbus at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 29 . . . Stepan has a seven-game point streak against Columbus (five goals, six assists) and is a point away from 300 in his career.