Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/7/14

The New York Rangers may have lost two straight games to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, but they will still have the opportunity to officially clinch a playoff spot with at least a point in tonight's match-up with the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. With both the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets losing on Sunday, the Blueshirts' magic number is down to just one as the ninth place team would be able to max out at 96 points for the season and right now the Rangers have 95. The Rangers also hold the tiebreaker in that situation, so at least getting tonight's tilt to overtime will do the job. 

But just getting the game to overtime, or simply clinching a playoff spot, is not the team's goal for tonight. After a dominating performance on Saturday in which the goaltending of SEMYON VARLAMOV caused the Rangers to fall short of victory, they'll be hungry for their 45th win on the year this evening. Prior to last Thursday, which was when the Penguins came to town and wiped up, John Tortorella's Rangers were getting back on track with wins against the Islanders and the Hurricanes. Thursday's loss was obviously a step backwards, but Saturday's defeat, although a loss, left the coach encouraged...

"I’m encouraged. We were stiffer. I thought we made some really good defensive plays and our chances were really good chances so we can’t get discouraged."

Torts is absolutely right. If not for Varlamov, the Rangers win that game rather easily. In fact, it would've been a blowout that had the fan base singing a happy tune once again. 

But at this time of year a loss is a loss and it's tough to generate a legitimate excuse. The Rangers must come out and convert on scoring opportunities and capitalize on powerplay chances, otherwise they will be facing yet another frustrating defeat in front of their home fans.

Plus, with the Pittsburgh Penguins now only one point behind New York for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Blueshirts need to widen the gap before that position slips from their grasp, or even worse, they ultimately lose home ice advantage in the playoffs. 

The Devils aren't exactly in fantastic position, either. They are currently in sixth place in the East and are desperately seeking home ice advantage. Unfortunately for them, home ice is seven points away and they've played one more game than most of the teams ahead of them. 

Meanwhile, they were also blown away by the Penguins, 5-2, on Saturday night in a performance that left head coach Pete DeBoer in disgust...

"You cannot show up against, I think, the best team that I've seen this year with less than you're A-game," he said. "We were off in some areas and they expose it and make you pay."

Sound familiar? 

New Jersey is also a very aggravated hockey club right now and they would rather no other opponent than the rival Rangers to take their anger out on. After all, they are leading the season series with New York, 3-2, with their most recent victory coming in a 4-1 routing back on March 6.

The Rangers' effort and desperation in that game was unacceptable so the team-wide intensity must be improved tonight on home ice. 

The lineup will remain unchanged, as Artem Anisimov (shoulder) will not make his return. 

New York Rangers Lineup

Hagelin - Richards - Gaborik

Dubinsky - Stepan - Callahan

Fedotenko - Boyle - Prust

Rupp - Mitchell - Zuccarello

 

McDonagh - Girardi

Staal - Del Zotto

Erixon - Bickel

 

Lundqvist

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Cormier tells Jones to get his s-- together

Fans holding 'Free Tom Brady Rally' at Gillette Stadium

Josh Hamilton to be activated by Rangers

WATCH: Top CB recruit makes insane catch doing backflip

Biggest surprises of the MLB season

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Marcus Mariota leads NFL in jersey sales for May

Report: Scott Skiles frontrunner for Magic coaching job

Shanahan: injuries are not why Robert Griffin III struggles

Kyle Korver ruled out for remainder of playoffs

Randy Moss attends cancer survivor's graduation

Roger Staubach shares thoughts on Greg Hardy

Warriors crush Rockets in Houston to take 3-0 series lead

WATCH: D'Angelo Russell whiffs on horrible golf swing

Brian Matusz ejected for having foreign substance on arm

PHOTO: Don Cherry wears wild suit even for his taste

PHOTOS: Gigantic sinkhole at Jack Nicklaus golf course

WATCH: Memphis player catches defense sleeping, scores

WATCH: Astros turn around-the-horn triple play

French Open Women's preview: Who will make the quarters?

WATCH: Bryan Price gets ejected before game starts

WATCH: Vin Scully narrates fan's marriage proposal

WATCH: Harper, Matt Williams have special handshake

The Yankees are succeeding despite the numbers

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

Eight biggest surprises of the MLB season

Bryan Price ejected before first pitch

Vin Scully narrates marriage proposal

Pats fan's obituary defends Brady

Marlins players skip own charity event

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

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.