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SportsColumnistsSteve Zipay

Rangers have games in hand against division opponents

The New York Rangers celebrate a goal as

The New York Rangers celebrate a goal as the Edmonton Oilers' David Perron (57) and goalie Ben Scrivens (30) look on during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. Credit: AP / Jason Franson

Question of the day: Is it more important to pile up points in the NHL or have games in hand?

One school of thought is to collect as many points -- in regulation, overtime or shootouts -- as a cushion in case of injuries or the inevitable slumps.

The other is that having games in the back pocket provides a team with an opportunity to go on a roll late in the season, and catch up to the teams above them in the standings.

Of course, a pursuing team can stumble as well.

We'll learn something more about that question in the coming weeks with the Blueshirts.

When the Rangers and Islanders play Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will have three games in hand. The Rangers do not play today or tomorrow.

At that point, the Blueshirts also will have three games in hand on the Capitals, against whom they are battling for one of the playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division.

They also are within striking distance of the Penguins and have two games in hand. The Rangers visit Pittsburgh next Sunday.

Two other factors to keep in mind. With the NHL's "loser point" system, which awards a team a point for a loss in overtime or the shootout, it's difficult to make up ground for a team that's chasing.

And you have to consider the strength of the opposition: The Rangers beat the Hurricanes twice, the Sabres, the Devils and the Edmonton Oilers in December.

By the time January is over, the Blueshirts will have faced the Islanders twice, the Canadiens, Penguins, Bruins and Blue Jackets.

The success before and during the current West Coast trip, however, has put the Rangers in an enviable position. Sports Club Stats, a website that projects postseason berths daily, currently gives the Blueshirts a 98.2 percent chance of making the playoffs.

NHL tech-savvy?

If testing goes well next week in Columbus, Rick Nash and the rest of the NHL All-Stars could be wearing computer chips in their jerseys during the Jan. 25 game and the skills competition.

Pucks might also have chips if the Sportvision technology, which tracks and records speed and positioning on the ice, can be utilized at Nationwide Arena.

We're told that here in San Jose, California the system was tested at SAP Center in a non-league game back in October.

If eventually the NHL and NHLPA can agree on further experimenting with the devices -- presumably in preseason games initially -- what's not to like about the concept?

For one thing, it would provide more accurate, standardized stats, which vary widely from rink to rink. And presumably, scouting and training would benefit from the data, which also could be used on TV broadcasts.

Chicago-based Sportvision is the company that developed the virtual yellow first-and-10 line and baseball's K-Zone. Other companies use high-tech cameras and radar-tracking technology, such as the one STATS' SportVU provides in the NBA, to gather data on player and ball movement.

The time has come for the NHL to join the revolution.

Heard and seen

Dan Boyle, who played in San Jose for six years and went to dinner with "non-hockey friends" on Friday, will relocate there with his wife after he retires from the game. "That's the plan right now,'' he said yesterday . . . "His work ethic is exemplary." That's what coach Alain Vigneault said about Swedish youngster Jesper Fast, who had just three goals but has opened eyes with his defensive skills. "I have, and I think his teammates have, a lot of faith that when he's on the ice he's going to make the right play. As he gets more experience, he going to help out at both ends of the rink." . . . Derick Brassard has grown a dark beard. Asked if it wasn't a bit early for playoff whiskers, he said: "I knew we were coming out West and I wanted to look meaner." . . . Kevin Hayes and Sharks forward Matt Nieto have a history. At Boston College, Hayes played against California-born Nieto, who attended Boston University.

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