Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 3/30/12

The month of March didn't exactly go as well as the New York Rangers had hoped heading in. They knew a busy schedule with tough opponents was awaiting them, so it was no surprise to see them struggle at times along the way. But in this final week of the month, in which the Rangers have played four games in seven nights, things couldn't be going any better. They topped the Leafs in a shootout on Saturday and then hit the road to defeat the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets on back-to-back nights. Meanwhile, the second place Pittsburgh Penguins lost two straight to the Islanders and gained no points while the Blueshirts gained six. Not too shabby, eh?

So New York currently sits atop the Eastern Conference with a five-point lead on the Penguins and a seven-point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers. By the end of tonight, the spread could be seven and nine, respectively, which would put the Rangers just three points away from clinching first going into the playoffs. A win this evening at Madison Square Garden could very well take what once was going to be a tight race to the finish line and make it into a favored competition with the Rangers obviously being the favorites. 

The opponent tonight will be the last place Montreal Canadiens. This will mark the fourth and final meeting between New York and Montreal, and despite the huge gap between the two in the standings, the Habs have managed to take two of three against the Rangers so far this season. Why? Another case of the Rangers playing down to their opponent and also struggling to win at the Bell Centre. 

But thankfully tonight's tilt will be held at MSG and the Rangers, if they were successful in bottling their momentum from Wednesday, should not be subject to matching their opponent. The Canadiens have lost seven of their last eight games, they struggle to score goals on a nightly basis and they are currently in the midst of a management change. The drama that has surrounded this hockey club in 2011-12 has been unbelievable, so fans up in Montreal are probably looking forward to the early end to the season in a few weeks just so they can relieve themselves of the pain. 

John Tortorella's Rangers should be looking at this situation and licking their chops. As I said, the Blueshirts can pretty much separate themselves from the rest of the East with a win tonight and the Habs, without making this sound condescending, are probably the easiest opponent to do that against right now. 

As Tortorella pointed out, the club played their best thirty minutes of hockey in a long while in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. If the Rangers can bring that commitment and team effort into tonight's match-up, this will be a breeze of a game for the home team. And there's no excuse not to considering the scenario and what is at stake here. 

The lineup will remain the same, which means goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will be making his season-high eighth consecutive start between the pipes. He's been returning to normal after the slump he went through in prior weeks, so I'm fine with the decision. He's becoming accustomed to the playoff feel, and I think that's the coaching staff's approach here. 

New York Rangers Lineup

Hagelin - Richards - Gaborik

Dubinsky - Stepan - Callahan

Anisimov - Boyle - Fedotenko

Rupp - Mitchell - Prust

 

McDonagh - Girardi

Staal - Del Zotto

Stralman - Bickel

 

Lundqvist

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

World Cup semifinals preview: US-Japan, Germany-England

Tim Duncan to help Spurs pitch LaMarcus Aldridge

Report: Knicks gave up on signing Marc Gasol 'long ago'

Kings terminate Mike Richards' contract due to 'breach'

Report: Nets believe they can trade Deron Williams

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mickelson likely committed no crime even if he gambled

Report: Dwyane Wade to decline option, become a free agent

Darren McFadden: I feel like a rookie again

Report: Mavericks a favorite to land DeAndre Jordan

Report: Kevin Love likely to re-sign with Cavaliers

Bo Ryan announces he'll coach Wisconsin one more season

Top seven storylines entering free agency around the NBA

Former FSU mascot killed in argument over gumbo recipe

Royals slipping in ASG voting, lose two more starters

Fred Smoot: I played with gay players, 'everyone knew'

Bobby Portis brings donuts for media at press conference

John Calipari shares his thoughts on Confederate flag

Steve Weatherford, Jason Kelce get into Twitter beef

Larry Nance Jr. apologized to 'Mr. Bryant' for rapist tweet

J.J. Watt 'tackles' stage crasher at Zac Brown Band show

Jimmy Butler reportedly wants to leave Bulls, sign with Lakers

Selecting the 2015 National League All-Stars

Taking a look at the Philadelphia Sixers' latest horde

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

Mickelson linked to money laundering?

Reminiscing on 'Love & Basketball' 15 years later

Selecting the 2015 NL All-Stars

The Sixers' latest horde

Projected landing spots for NBA's top free agents

MLB changes format for Home Run Derby

Revis to work out with Patriots DBs

Peterson: I'm still NFL's best RB

Kobe gives great quote on friendship

Winners, losers and steals of the NHL Draft

Carmelo calls Porzingis a 'steal'

WATCH: J.J. Watt scores hockey goal

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.