After a brief stay in sixth place, the idle Rangers dropped back to eighth following wins by the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night. All three teams have two games remaining in the regular season, with the Habs up two points on the Rangers and a single point on the Sabres. Montreal will hold the regulation wins tie-breaker over both teams with 40.
The only team left who can spoil a postseason spot for the Rangers is the Carolina Hurricanes who are in action Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. With a game in hand, the Canes wouldn't be eliminated with a regulation loss, but it would allow the Rangers to clinch with just one point when they take the ice Thursday night against Atlanta.
As fans wait for the Rangers to return to action, they continue to stew about the injury to Ryan Callahan. It's certainly a bad blow for the Rangers, but postseason success isn't unthinkable with the wing on the shelf. When Callahan was out from Dec. 15 to Feb. 1, the Rangers posted a record of 10-7-2, including wins over the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. Will his absence hurt? Absolutely. But it's not as though Callahan provides the Rangers with a disproportionate amount of their goals. In fact there are four other Blueshirts within two markers of his goal total.
The Rangers can make up the loss of Callahan's offense. And while they'll miss Callahan's lead-by-example effort, I can't see head coach John Tortorella letting the team play with any less grit in his absence.
It's indisputable that New York loses a great player in Callahan, but any kind of playoff run was going to take a team effort anyway. If they're going to pull a first round upset it's likely to be because of solid defense, wall-like goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and a persistent forecheck. None of those three elements are going anywhere. Callahan just won't be involved in the latter.