by Patrick Hoffman on 03/12/09 at 11:20 AM ET
As of this morning, the New York Rangers were ninth in the Eastern Conference with 76 points, just one point out of the 8th spot (currently held by the Florida Panthers) and two points out of the 7th (currently held by the Carolina Hurricanes) and 6th (currently held by the Pittsburgh Penguins). This makes tonight’s game against the streaky Nashville Predators extremely important and much like the Blueshirts, the Predators are doing everything they can to stay in the thick of the playoff race (currently 8th in the Western Conference with 71 points).
Another reason why tonight’s tilt in Nashville is important is because of what a win would mean for Blueshirts’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist. The “King” is one win away from establishing a new NHL record by becoming the first goaltender in NHL history to win 30 or more games in each of his first four seasons. That should show you just how valuable Henrik is to this team and that he is one of the major reasons why the team has qualified for the postseason in each of their last three seasons.
While Monday’s night 3-0 loss to the Hurricanes wasn’t pretty, the team still looks like they are close to where they need to be in order to make the playoffs. They’re scoring more goals (except for Monday), going harder to the net, getting goals from guys that should be scoring, still playing sound defense and getting great goaltending from Henrik.
Tonight will be tough one as the Preds’ have picked up 21 wins on home ice while the Rangers have struggled somewhat on the road. However, Sean Avery told the team’s web site that picking up two points tonight isn’t impossible.
“We basically have to bring it back to the way we played a couple games prior and stick to Torts’ system,” said Avery. “We have to get in on the forecheck, and bring our compete level up a little bit. If we do that we believe we can go into Nashville and get the two points.”
Two points is what they need to stay in the playoff hunt and a win tonight would certainly keep their confidence up about making the playoffs, which is all that should matter right now.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.