GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The target is 96 points.
That’s about what the Rangers will need to make the Stanley Cup playoffs in the Eastern Conference, coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday.
Here’s the math: Starting on Thursday, when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers will have 32 regular-season games to play and 55 points in their pocket. So they will need 41 points, for example, a record of 20-11-1, to keep playing in April.
“It varies from year to year,” Vigneault said after the first practice for his club since the beginning of the All-Star break on Friday. “You hear different numbers, generally they say 96 is what’ll get you in. Right now, it looks like it might be a little less than that. A lot of times, after the trade deadline, some teams fade a little bit, but it’ll be close to 96.”
The rest-of-season challenge includes the potential for distractions before the trade deadline of Feb. 26, as the Rangers begin a Western Canada road trip. Rumors of unrestricted free agents and regulars such as Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello being dealt have already begun.
“I’m not all at all concerned about white noise surrounding any trade period,” Vigneault said. “As a player you’re professional and you focus on what you need to do.”
And the coaching staff’s job is to keep players ready for the next game, he said, especially with just one or two points separating postseason berths.
“I think there are a couple teams, without naming them, three or four, four or five, that are in a comfortable position,” he said. “All the other ones? Comfort? I don’t see it. This is going to be a lot of fun for guys who love the competition. Everybody’s got about the same number of games left.”
Henrik Lundqvist was given the day off but will practice Wednesday. Tony DeAngelo and Peter Holland were brought back from Hartford. The newest Ranger, veteran Cody McLeod, who was claimed off waivers last week, joined the practice.
“He’s a north-south player, big body,” Vigneault said. “All our homework on him talks about good energy guy, good teammate, and he’ll get a chance to play.”
Although some players liked the All-Star hiatus to recharge, “I’ve had enough of time off,” Vigneault said. “It’s time to play. Thirty-two games left, time to focus on playing well and getting points.”
Notes & quotes: McLeod was given No. 8, last worn by Kevin Klein and back in the day, Steve Vickers. “I’m not going to change my game,” said McLeod, who has logged 1,524 penalty minutes in his career. “Bring some energy and the physical part . . . whatever I can do to help the team.” DeAngelo, a South Jersey native and huge Eagles fan, says that with all the Boston natives on the team, he’ll have to watch the Super Bowl by himself when the Rangers get to Dallas on Sunday. “Want to keep some friendships going,” he said. DeAngelo picks the Eagles.