Rangers can't clinch against Thrashers

North Bellmore native Matt Gilroy looks on against

North Bellmore native Matt Gilroy looks on against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden. (Oct. 3, 2009) (Credit: Getty Images)

The Rangers, who have won two consecutive thrillers, will not be in a position to clinch a playoff spot Thursday, even if they beat the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden.

The ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 3-0, Wednesday night behind 42 saves by Cam Ward and remained in the hunt for one of the last berths in the East, just two points behind the Rangers.

The Rangers have 91 points, with two games to play, tonight's and Saturday's regular-season finale, a home matinee against the Devils. The Hurricanes have 89 and face the Thrashers tomorrow and host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

The Rangers are 5-0-1 in the last six at home, but are without second-leading scorer Ryan Callahan, whose right ankle was fractured by Zdeno Chara's slap shot in the final minute of Monday's 5-3 comeback against the Bruins.

The Blueshirts are 1-2 against the Thrashers this season.

Marian Gaborik will replace Callahan at right wing on the line with left wing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. Moving up from defense will be Matt Gilroy, who has played all of his two-year Rangers career as a blueliner but was a forward for his first two years at Boston University and in high school on Long Island. Gilroy, 3-8-11 in 56 games but a healthy scratch for the last six, practiced with center Erik Christensen and left wing Sean Avery.

"Stay on the right side," the North Bellmore native said, only half-kidding, when asked about the transition. "I'm hoping it will be smooth. The guys were giving it to me a little bit out there, especially the D-men . . . I'm excited to play in a big game."

Christensen said that because of Gilroy's speed, offensive instincts and previous experience up front, "he might be the best-equipped of our defensemen to make the switch. The key thing is communicating. If Sean and I see something, like where he needs to be, we'll tell him. He can skate and thinks the game well."

Notes & quotes: Callahan, using crutches and wearing a protective boot on his right foot, won't require surgery and said he'll be around to encourage his teammates . . . The Rangers' No. 1 draft pick last summer, defenseman Dylan McIlrath, will test the AHL waters with the Connecticut Whale on an amateur tryout agreement.

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