The task is steep, but this year's New York Rangers have been all about their never say die mentality. With four games left in the season -- just one mere point up on ninth-place Carolina -- the eighth-place Rangers will battle the East's best team, the Philadelphia Flyers, on the road for a 12:30 p.m. EST start.
This is the Rangers' chance to bounce back, to erase the bad memories of two straight losses -- the last a 6-2 shellacking at the hands of the Islanders -- in which the Rangers played some listless hockey. The Rangers have scored five goals in their past five games and have lost four of the five games played against the Flyers this season, though the last game in early March they won quite convincingly, 7-0.
Mats Zuccarello has been sent down to the AHL, meaning Wojtek Wolski will re-enter the lineup. It's a questionable move considering the rookie provided some offensive flair -- though he's struggled lately (but so has Erik Christensen). John Tortorella says Zuccarello has lost some confidence, he wants him to get more playing time and is concerned about the type of games played and size needed at this time of year. For the first time in a while, Tortorella won't have to make a decision about which forward to scratch from the lineup.
Tortorella also switched the lines up during Saturday's practice: Brandon Prust moved onto the right wing with Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, while Ryan Callahan filled his spot on the Brian Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko line.
The coach is optimistic, he's not overreacting and the team is still in the think of the playoff race, but Sunday's game will be important in solidifying the team's chances of playing in the postseason. Carolina beat the Islanders Saturday night, Buffalo lost in overtime and Montreal, which is now four points ahead of New York, won -- points mean everything this juncture of the season. After the game in Philadelphia, the Rangers will end the season with three games at home.