Steve Zipay Newsday columnist Steve Zipay

Steve Zipay is an award-winning journalist who has covered events from Super Bowls to World Series and issues from sports marketing to stadium financing. Based in New York for 25 years, Steve also has been a news editor, a business editor and sports media columnist for Newsday. In 1997, Steve was a member of the Newsday team that won a Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting on the crash of Flight 800. He has covered the Rangers and the NHL since the 2005-06 season. Show More

Fatigue in February? Don’t want to hear about it. Or the condensed schedule. Or mystifying poor starts. Or a power play that can be tough to watch. Or defensive lapses that allow wave after wave of odd-man rushes.

Okay, a few instances are acceptable, but the Rangers shouldn’t have any excuses for a poor February.

If they founder, it will be because a team that exceeded expectations for the first 49 games of the regular season isn’t quite ready to contend. Forget any more Valentines from the fans and the media.

Consider: The Blueshirts will play eight of 13 games next month at Madison Square Garden. Only three road games require flights — none longer than to Ohio — and they play on consecutive nights just once. Oh, and the other two games? A drive to Brooklyn and a drive to Newark.

Comparatively cushy, no?

To be sure, the Rangers (5-5 in their last 10 before this All-Star weekend) aren’t perfect, but they managed to rise up despite long recoveries from injuries to Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, short-term setbacks for Rick Nash, and a defense with holes on the right side.

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So management, coaches, players, yes, they all deserve credit. They’ve weathered plenty, including that little crisis of confidence that jarred Henrik Lundqvist, who, by the way, turns 35 on March 2.

Speaking of March, let’s put it plainly: Before the calendar turns to that month, which has the toughest travel of the season and five back-to-back sets, the Blueshirts must make the most of their opportunities in February at home, where they are just 14-10-1.

With 63 points and 33 games remaining, the Blueshirts need 38 points to hit 101, which they reached last season, and which over the last five full seasons guaranteed a playoff spot in Eastern Conference. So, the Rangers could hit that mark, with a doable 18-13-2. Sounds like a layup, right?

Actually, in the last five full seasons---tossing out the lockout year---they have averaged 102.4 points per campaign. Odds are, they will surpass 102.4 this time, but….

Anyway, that may be just enough for the first wild-card berth in the East. In the Metropolitan Division, Washington already has 72 points, Columbus, 68 and Pittsburgh, 65.

Since 2011-12, the Blueshirts have fared well at the Garden in February, going 22-6-4 over on Seventh Avenue. Past isn’t necessarily prologue, but Ryan McDonagh is optimistic.

“We’ve got a stretch of home games here coming out of the break, so that’s a good opportunity for us to get back on a roll again and rest up here a little bit,” McDonagh said before leaving for the All-Star weekend. “But ultimately, I like what our team’s done and we’re still in a good spot here as we continue with the season.”

MY THREE CENTS

The NHL is continuing to assess the possibility of playing two regular-season games in Europe next year, with one outdoors in Sweden. Wouldn’t mind seeing the Rangers in London, maybe at the 02 Arena, which sold out for Magic/Raptors. An outdoor game in soggy old England might be too ambitious…One possible right-handed d-man rental at the March 1 trade deadline for the Blueshirts? Sabres’ Cody Franson…Swing and some misses: The NHL’s panel that chose the top 100 players all-time somehow didn’t have room for Jarome Iginla (610 goals, more than Bobby Hull and Mike Bossy); Joe Thornton (992 assists, just 40 behind Mario Lemieux) and Hawks defenseman Pierre Pilote (3 Norris Trophies).

CIRCLE THESE DATES

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Feb. 16 Rangers at Islanders. Blueshirts are 0-3 in Brooklyn.

Feb. 19 and 28. Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals come to town.

Feb. 21 Canadiens visit. Possible preview of first round in the playoffs?