RALEIGH, N.C. - A .500 road record is out of the question for the Rangers, who failed to clinch a playoff berth in Florida on Tuesday. The consistently inconsistent, eighth-place Blueshirts, with 52 points, one ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, are 9-12-2 away from home.
But all they need is a total of two points against the Hurricanes Thursday night and the Devils in the season finale at home on Saturday to reach the playoffs for the third straight season. The Rangers (24-18-4) also could back in if the Jets lose their last game Thursday night to Montreal at home.
Only three points separate four teams from sixth to ninth: the Islanders, who are in the playoffs, have 54 and two games left; the Senators and Rangers are tied with 52, but Ottawa has a game in hand. The Jets, at 51, have one game left. The final seeding may not be decided until Sunday, when the Senators visit the Bruins for a game that was rescheduled because of the Boston bombings.
The Rangers, however, cannot look past the already eliminated Hurricanes, despite beating them twice this season -- one in a 2-1 shootout at the Garden on March 18, with the deciding goal by Rick Nash, who also scored a power-play goal in a 4-1 win here on April 6. Derek Stepan had two regulation goals in those games, including one on the power play. The Devils, meanwhile, who were eliminated by the Rangers last Sunday, would love an opportunity to return the favor.
Because the Rangers didn't nail down a playoff spot, Henrik Lundqvist, who played in both wins over the Hurricanes, will start his 13th consecutive game. Dan Ellis is expected to be in net again for Carolina, which has won two in a row but is 9-14-0 at home.