New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller takes a shot against...

New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller takes a shot against Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce at Madison Square Garden last January. Credit: Brad Penner

For a while, it looked like a foregone conclusion that the Rangers and Devils were destined to meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Carolina Hurricanes, it seemed, were locked into first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Devils were locked into second and the Rangers were locked into third. That meant the Devils would be hosting the Rangers in Game 1 of the playoffs next month.

But now, with 3 1⁄2 weeks left in the season, things don’t look so certain anymore.

Suddenly, the Rangers are surging, the Hurricanes have injury problems and the Devils are chasing first place while also being chased by the Rangers. And the Rangers have a chance to make a big statement in the division race with two games against Carolina this week on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden and Thursday in Raleigh.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously it’s another tough opponent,’’ center Mika Zibanejad said of Carolina after the Rangers finished a huge weekend sweep of Pittsburgh and Nashville in which they outscored the opposition 13-0. “But at the same time, I think we put ourselves in a spot where we understand that we can tell when we’re playing our game and what can happen when we do that.’’

The Rangers (41-19-10, 92 points) are certainly playing their game right now, having won four straight and six of seven (6-0-1), including a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday and a 7-0 win over Nashville on Sunday. They are five points behind second-place New Jersey (45-18-7, 97 points) and six back of Carolina (45-15-8, 98).

Carolina does have two games in hand on the Devils and Rangers, but the way the Blueshirts are playing — they’ve scored 15 unanswered goals in the last three games — the idea of winning both games against the Hurricanes is not far-fetched. If they can, in regulation time, it could cause havoc in the division.

All four lines are playing well for the Rangers, and each produced a goal Sunday against Nashville. Zibanejad has five goals in the last four games and his line, with Russian wingers Artemi Panarin and Vladimir Tarasenko, is playing especially well together.

“It’s really coming together the last couple of games,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said.

Carolina is regrouping after its third-leading scorer, Andrei Svechnikov, was lost for the season to an ACL tear suffered last week. The Hurricanes are 2-2 since he went down.

The Rangers, though, are not thinking about what is going on with Carolina. They’re more focused on their own growing chemistry and how to keep that going. Gallant, who is aware of the criticism about how often he changes his lines, said over the weekend that he is trying to keep them together now to help build chemistry.

Zibanejad likes that idea.

“I feel like we’re doing a lot of good things,’’ he said. “We’re making good decisions with the puck; we’re supporting each other. And I think the more and more you get to play together, you get a better understanding of how you can use each other’s strengths and put yourself in a good spot.’’

More Rangers

Newsday LogoDON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access