It will be a tale of two cities this afternoon, when the Rangers go from facing one of the worst teams in the league (a 4-1 rout of the Ottawa Senators on Friday) to one of the league's best teams in the Philadelphia Flyers.
Not that the level of opponent changes the importance of the game mind you. This is yet another must win contest for the New York Rangers.
Let's take a quick look at the standings, big thanks to Jesse Spector for doing the legwork on this:
6. Montreal - 77 points (17 games left)
7. Rangers - 72 points (15 games left)
8. Carolina - 71 points (16 games left)
* * *
9. Buffalo - 70 points (18 games left)
10. Toronto - 67 points (17 games left)
11. Atlanta - 63 points (17 games left)
12. Devils - 62 points (18 games left)
The Sabres, who still have a whopping three games in hand on the Rangers, are poised to steal one of the bottom two playoff slots if they can find a way to best the Minnesota Wild tonight. Carolina, who doesn't play until Wednesday, would be the team ousted today if the Sabres manage a win.
But the Rangers can't look behind them now, not with a powerhouse Flyers team looming.
The Rangers did get some good news this morning, hearing that sniper Marian Gaborik will return to the lineup. Gaborik, who has been skating the past few days, was cleared to play; and will be in the lineup tonight. How John Tortorella decides to utilize him has yet to be seen.
The Rangers will also get a boost from rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is also returning to the action tonight. McDonagh, who was replaced by a streaky Steve Eminger while he was shelved, will bring a welcomed addition of toughness against the rough Flyers.
- Expect Henrik Lundqvist to get the nod for the Rangers again. As we have been telling you since it happened, this is the part of the season in which the Martin Biron injury is going to take its toll.
- Keep a close eye on McDonagh today. The Flyers are a fast and very skilled team and they might target him, since he's just back from an injury.
- On the "keep an eye out" note, also keep a close watch on Gaborik. The sniper has been in a season-long slump this year, maybe the extra "rest" (he did have a concussion after all) will help him stop gripping the stick so tight.