Tonight could be the night that the New York Rangers make the playoffs for the first time in five years. All it will take will be a win over the Ottawa Senators or if the Islanders lose to the Blues. The Rangers game starts an hour earlier than the Isles so you can be sure they’d like to clinch with a win instead of backing in.
There’s more than a playoff berth at stake. With the Carolina Hurricanes loss to the Islanders last night, the Rangers could tie the Canes for first place if they win. Carolina will have played one fewer game after tonight, but the teams meet on Tuesday, a game with growing implications.
Other than the playoffs, the big news is that both Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney are returning to the lineup. Kakko last played on January 21, missing 31 games while Rooney has been out for 18 games since suffering an upper body injury on March 2.
It’s not all good news. Tyler Motte suffered what the team is calling “a significant upper body injury.” There’s no timetable for his return. Filip Chytil is also out, though his injjry is not considered serioius.
It’s a time for Gerard Gallant to experiment with his lineup as they prepare for the postseason and with Kakko and Rooney back, there’s no shortage of forwards.
The Senators are going to miss the playoffs for fifth straight years as they continue to rebuild. They are 26-38-6 and are in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and headed back to the lottery. They have won three of their last four, but they have won only once in their last six against a team headed to the playoffs. Their competition hasn’t been exactly the best with only four of their last 17 games against playoff teams.
Not only that, but they will be missing some key players out with injuries
The playoff picture
The Penguins lost again, this time at home this afternoon to the Capitals by a 6-3 score. That means the Rangers could open an eight point lead on the Penguins and that would pretty much lock in second place for the Blueshirts.
Don’t look now, but the Caps are now only four points behind the Penguins with two games in hand. That Pittsburgh-New York series we have been anticipating could actually be a Washington-New York reunion. Now, THAT would be interesting.
Not many other games of note when it comes to the Eastern Conference. Toronto looks to build on their grasp on second place in the Atlantic Division. They don’t have much of a shot at catching Florida who plays Nashville.
This season vs Ottawa
This will be the third meeting of the season between the two teams with the Rangers winning the first two, both come-from-behind one-goal victories. In the first game in Ottawa in October, the Rangers came back from a 2-0 deficit with three goals in the last 5:23 with Barclay Goodrow scoring the winning goal with just two minutes left. Alexandar Georgiev was in goal for New York.
In the second game on February 20, the Blueshirts came back again, this time from a 1-0 deficit, to win on goals from Ryan Strom and Artemi Panarin. Igor Shesterkin stopped 29 of 30 shots for the road win.
Projected starting lineups
We don’t know who will be in goal for the Rangers, though it is expected to be Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers have two days off before facing Carolina and Philadelphia in back-to-back games. Gerard Gallant did confirm that Kakko and Rooney are in the lineup.
NEW YORK RANGERS
20 Kreider – 93 Zibanejad – 77 Vatrano
23 Panarin – 16 Strome -18 Copp
13 Lafreniere – 21 Goodrow – 24 Kakko
29 Hunt – 17 Rooney – 75 Reaves
55 Lindgren – 23 Fox
79 Miller – 8 Trouba
61 Braun – 45 Schneider
7 Brady Tkachuk – 9 Josh Norris – 21 Mathieu Joseph
10 Alex Formenton – 71 Chris Tierney– 17 Adam Gaudette
45 Parker Kelly – 36 Colin White – 28 Connor Brown
27 Dylan Gambrell – 47 Mark Kastelic – 16 Austin Watson
26 Erik Brannstrom – 2 Artem Zub
5 Nick Holden – 22 Nikita Zaitsev
15 Michael Del Zotto – Travis Hamonic
31 Anton Forsberg
33 Mads Sogaard
The Senators have been hit hard by injuries. They are missing Tim Stützle, Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, Matt Murray and Drake Batherson. Anton Forsberg has been a pleasant surprise for the Senators and will get the start in goal. He has lost his only start against the Rangers, allowing two goals in just over four minutes when he came in to relieve the injured Matt Murray.
How to watch and the live conversation
Gametime is 7pm and it will be televised on the MSG Network (thank goodness!). The live stream will be on ESPN+.
Blue Line Station’s live conversation is active and you are welcome to talk about the game, the playoffs, the return of injured players or anything else on your mind. You can join by registering your opinions in the comments section below.