NEW YORK -- Thanks to the Atlanta Thrashers, the New York Rangers are no longer in control of their own destiny. The rival New Jersey Devils would love to squash their playoff hopes all together when the two teams hit the ice on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
The Devils already know they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996. That much was very difficult to swallow for one of the most successful franchises in the NHL this past decade. But knocking the Rangers out of the postseason for a second consecutive season would certainly alleviate some of the pain.
"They are not in," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "They are going to do everything they can to play spoiler. They are going to do everything they can to not see us in the playoffs. Also, they want to end the season on a good note. It's going to be an exciting game, a big game like last year. Obviously we want to be in a better position going into game 82, but we don't have a choice."
The Rangers (43-33-5, 91 points) lost control of their own destiny on Thursday night after they were shut out by the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-0. Had they won, they would've needed just one point on Saturday to make the playoffs. Now, they're going to need the Carolina Hurricanes (39-30-11, 89 points), who trail the Rangers by two points in the Eastern Conference standings but have two games remaining and hold the tiebreaker, to falter. Both teams have 34 regulation and overtime victories, but the Hurricanes captured the season series (2-0-2).
The Rangers could also get in with a win and two Buffalo Sabres' regulation losses, but that seems highly unlikely. The Sabres (41-29-10, 91 points) host the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night, before hitting the road and playing the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Saturday night.
"I know this team will be ready to play Jersey," said head coach John Tortorella.
Tortorella better be right, and get some help. Otherwise, the Rangers are going to be on the outside looking in after Game No. 82 for the second straight season.