Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 4/2/12

The New York Rangers managed to get through the month of March still in first place in the Eastern Conference with home ice clinched in the playoffs. However, prior to Sunday, four games remained on the regular season schedule, and all four were against tough opponents. The Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals were the four clubs the Blueshirts had to face before the playoffs, all four of which are in the playoff picture in the East.

Some may look at this and begin to worry, while other see it is a challenge for the Rangers going into the postseason. Head coach John Tortorella is one who believes in the latter, saying these last few games on the schedule are perfect for playoff preparation: 

Torts: "we have a tough (final) week here..that's a good thing for our team...best way to prepare for the playoffs"

— New York Rangers (@thenyrangers) April 2, 2012

Of course, the Rangers didn't have the start to the week that they would've liked after losing to the Boston Bruins, 2-1, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. But three important games still remain, and two of those are against divisional opponents while the other could be a preview of a quarterfinal match-up in the playoffs. For those naysayers out there who feel that the Rangers have been smoke in mirrors, these last three games can and will be the telling truth when all is said and done. 

I think the contest of greatest importance will come on Thursday when the Rangers visit the Penguins in Pittsburgh. They've struggled with the Pens in recent meetings and Pittsburgh also happens to be a team chasing the Blueshirts in the standings. It will be more of a statement game for both teams than anything. 

But first comes the Flyers tomorrow night in Philadelphia. The Flyers have been one of the hotter teams in the NHL as of late, so it will be a challenge for New York to win this final game that would complete the sweep of the season series. It's certainly possible, though, and remember, just one point clinches the Eastern Conference for the Rangers. 

And finally we have the Capitals. By the looks of it right now, the Rangers may very well be facing off with the Caps for the third time in four years in the first round of the playoffs. This time, however, the tables are turned and the Rangers come in as the top dog. They'll want to leave a lasting impressing on Washington in that final game of the regular season for sure. 

* In other news, Tortorella swapped the forward lines today in practice after Sunday's loss. They were as follows:

Hagelin - Richards - Gaborik

Anisimov - Stepan - Callahan

Dubinsky - Boyle - Fedotenko 

Rupp - Mitchell - Prust/Scott

One loss and we're switching lines? After a four-game winning streak? 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Jose Altuve leaves game after scary outfield collision

Allen Iverson has savage response to Tim Hardaway’s crossover claim

Fred Hoiberg: Rajon Rondo ‘longshot’ to return during Celtics series

Pat Riley: LeBron James’ departure from Miami ‘was personal’

Marcus Smart fires back at Jimmy Butler over ‘not about that life’ talk

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tony Gonzalez: Tony Romo did not cost me CBS job

Martavis Bryant conditionally reinstated by the NFL

Dustin Pedroia: No rift in Red Sox clubhouse after Manny Machado incident

USGA tries to simplify rules by ending viewer call-ins, somehow makes it more complicated

NFL GM: Peterson could push Saints ‘into the playoffs and beyond’

Report: Derek Jeter/Jeb Bush-led group wins auction for Miami Marlins

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Paul Millsap needs a twin phone

Perfect matches: Handpicking players for certain teams in the 2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft do-overs we'd most like to see

NFL Draft X-factor players you may have missed during their college careers

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Box Score 4/25: 'So long, sleeves'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

20 of the best NFL Draft red carpet looks

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

How the Astros are following the Cubs' blueprint to the top

The 'QB or not QB? That is the question' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Paul Millsap needs a twin phone

Perfect matches: Handpicking players for certain teams in the 2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft do-overs we'd most like to see

NFL Draft X-factor players you may have missed during their college careers

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker