After that fluky bounce on Brad Richards’ shot to tie the game in Carolina Thursday and the Captain Clutch effort from Ryan Callahan with the PCG (playoff-clinching goal, an over-time-less beauty), the Rangers have one more game to play before they know who their first-round opponent will be.
The Blueshirts will clinch at least the No. 7 seed (and a series with the Bruins, methinks) with a win over the Devils on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. They also could grab the No. 6 seed and square off against the Washington Capitals. If the Isles lose tonight in Buffalo, that would lock them into eighth and a bout with the Penguins.
To be sure, the Rangers dearly want to avoid playing the Pens, with Sidney Crosby coming back to the rosterful of stars.
But coach John Tortorella, who has an intriguing decision, wouldn’t reveal his goalie choice today, as expected.
The issue: If the Isles lose tonight, he might lean toward playing Marty Biron and resting Henrik Lundvist, who has played 13 straight, for the post-season. If Lundqvist plays, he would have Sunday off, but presumably not Monday, before the Rangers open on the road somewhere, presumably on Tuesday.
And also, would the Rangers rather face Boston or Washington?
But the Rangers, who are 2-1 against the Devils this season, have no control of what Ottawa will do in its final two games, and the Sens currently sit in sixth with a game in hand.
Maybe you push for as many wins as possible: In the first tiebreaker, the Rangers have 21 wins in regulation and overtime, the Sens and Isles have 20.
If it matters to Tortorella, with the Devils eliminated, New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer has already made his choice: Johan Hedberg over Martin Brodeur. The last time Brodeur was a backup at MSG was on May 1, 1992, in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series; Chris Terreri started, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Rangers already have one sub lined up: Kris Newbury, who was summoned from the AHL to replace Ryane Clowe, who was helped off the ice in the first period Thursday with an undisclosed injury after a check by Bobby Sanguinetti, and did not practice Saturday. But Tortorella did tell the press that he “projects” Clowe to be a factor in the playoffs.
Rookie Chris Kreider, who played just 7:05 in Raleigh and could use more minutes and less shackles, might move into Clowe’s spot, with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash, while Newbury drops to the fourth line with Aaron Asham and Darroll Powe.