Rangers can play spoiler tonight to a Senators team in need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Location: Madison Square Garden- New York, NY
Where to watch/listen: MSG/WEPN 98.7
Tonight, the New York Rangers return home for their last game of the regular season. These past seven days have seen the team accomplish what some did not see at the beginning of the season. By clinching the Metropolitan Division and President’s Trophy, the Rangers have set themselves for the best possible advantage heading into the playoffs next week: home-ice. All four rounds, if the team goes that far, will be played in the “World’s Famous Arena”.
Are we seeing shades of 1994? Hopefully, the end result that year will be the same for this year’s team.
They play host to the Ottawa Senators, who are in the midst of trying to punch a ticket to the playoffs. This will be the third and final game between the two teams. The Rangers will be looking for the season sweep, winning the previous two meetings.
Last time, the Rangers traveled to Ottawa and burglarized the “Hamburglar” Andrew Hammond on way to a 5-1 rout back on March 26th. The team got took an early 3-1 first-period lead and never looked back. In that game, Chris Kreider had a three-point night (two goals, one assist) and resident fourth-liner Tanner Glass got his first goal as a Ranger.
New York Rangers
(52-21-7 with 111 points, President’s Trophy and Metropolitan Division Champions)
The Rangers are 25-10-5 at home this season. In their last 10 games, they are 7-3. Currently, they are on a five-game winning streak dating back to March 31st.
With not much more to play, fans may expect the team to put it on cruise control these last remaining games. They just might and see how the rest of the conference shakes out.
Expect head coach Alain Vigneault to rest his top players tonight. That may mean, we may see plenty of the third and fourth lines on the ice. During the team’s winning streak, the two lines have combined to score 16 points (seven goals, nine assists).
There may be a possibility Kevin Klein may return to the lineup, tonight. He has been injured for the past month with a broken arm. If so, expect one of the Rangers top defenseman to come out of the lineup and the defensive parings to be juggled. But as with the forwards, Vigneault may opt to play his bottom pairings in favor of resting his top pair for next week.
(41-26-13 with 95 points, tied in points for the second Wild Card Spot in the Eastern Conference)
Entering tonight, the Senators are tied with the Boston Bruins for the second and final Wild Card spot. With the Bruins losing last night to the Washington Capitals, Ottawa has an opportunity to pull two points ahead of Boston and one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first Wild Card spot. After tonight, the Senators will have to wait till the final day of the regular season to play next. The Bruins and the Penguins both play Friday and Saturday.
It looks as though, the race for the final two wild Card spots in the Eastern conference will come down to the wire. Expect the Senators to give everything they can tonight.
Vigneault has already said that Henrik Lundqvist will be the goalie for the last remaining games of the season. He was not the starting goalie the last time. However, he is 4-1 with a 2.40 GAA in five games since returning from injury.
If you are keeping track of which mask the King will be wearing for tonight’s game, it will be one where he honros the brave men and women of the New York Fire Department. On his official twitter account (@HLundqvist30), Lundqvist made the announcement and posted a picture of what the mask will look like to fans:
Lundqvist looks primed for the Rangers playoff run next week. It should help his psyche knowing that each playoff series will start at home.
Andrew Hammond will look to redeem himself from last time facing the Rangers. At the time, the Hamburglar had not loss a regulation game. However, he has been 4-0-1 in his past five games. Hammond has a 2.00 GAA and has not allowed more than three goals during that stretch.
If the Senators are to move past the Bruins and Penguins and put pressure on both teams to win tomorrow night, they are going to need Hammond to ‘steal’ tonight’s game in New York.
D, Kevin Klein (broken arm)- Questionable
Tonight marks the annual Rangers tradition of “Blueshirts Off Our Backs”. It’s an opportunity for fans to be on the ice with the team and receive a player’s game-worn jersey and autograph. This is a unique event and held on the last regular season game. Fans are chosen by submitting an essay and judged by a panel within the Rangers organization as to who has the most passion for the team. They are chosen monthly throughout the season. For further information about this unique tradition with the fans, click on “Blueshirts Off Our Back“.
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