GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Clinching a playoff spot in their penultimate game of the season Thursday night at Carolina, the Rangers don't have much time to celebrate or relish their third straight post-season appearance.
There's one more game to go and even this one has meaning, as the Rangers try to vie for the No. 6 seed when they host the New Jersey Devils Saturday for a matinee at Madison Square Garden.
The seventh-place Rangers can finish as high as a No. 6 seed and as low as a No. 8 seed.
“We’re still playing in our home barn, our fans are there,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “It’s our last game of the regular season and we still have a chance to move up in the standings, depending on how teams shake out. We’re just gonna approach it like another huge two points, which it is, and try to get another win on home ice.”
The quick turnaround doesn’t provide much time for relief or reflection for the team, but there is a sense of re-invigoration now that they have secured a spot.
“It’ll be a fresh slate, for sure. Just kind of the weight off your shoulders. I think for three weeks we’ve been pretty ingrained in this battle, the ups and downs of it,” said alternate captain Brad Richards, who has five goals in the last five games. “We had to put a pretty good streak together, so we’re proud of ourselves that we did that, but we’re just happy we got it over with it. We all know anything can happen now that you’re in.”
Last season’s Stanley Cup Final -- a match-up between the No. 8-seed L.A. Kings and No. 6-seed New Jersey Devils -- is a good reminder of that.
“It’s a perfect example, I think,” McDonagh said. “I think, in this day and age in the NHL, competition between teams is so close ... It’s always a battle just to get in, especially in a shortened season like this. If you’re in there, you just want to try to be peaking, get yourself on a good run and see how far it takes you.”
The Rangers may have to make their run without trade deadline acquisition Ryane Clowe.
The rugged 30-year-old winger was forced from Thursday’s playoff-clinching win in Carolina with an undisclosed injury and did not practice Friday with the team.
In wake of Clowe’s injury, the Rangers recalled Kris Newbury.
Coach John Tortorella said he did not know the severity of Clowe’s injury but predicted he’d be a valuable asset if he is a part of their playoff lineup.
“I’m not sure what all falls into place as far as when playoffs start, but I’m projecting him to be a pretty important playoff player for us,” Tortorella said. “He has the experience; he has the heavy body for it. He’s done really good stuff along the wall for us since he's been here. His strengths are really important if you're looking to compete in the playoffs.”
Tortorella was also asked if he will use Saturday as an opportunity to give starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist a chance to rest. Lundqvist made his 13th consecutive start on Thursday.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Tortorella said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my lineup tomorrow.”
Lundqvist has played all but five of 47 games this season.