Rangers clinch playoff spot

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers squandered the chance to do it themselves with Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, but they backed into the playoffs with the New Jersey Devils1-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday night.

The Blueshirts are now officially playoff-bound.

With three games remaining in the regular season, the focus now shifts to gaining home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Rangers are currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, although the Flyers have one game in hand.

“It’s a good feeling,” Rangers forward Brian Boyle said of securing a postseason berth. “But there’s still a lot to play for, positioning-wise.”

Beginning with Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers host two non-playoff opponents at Madison Square Garden this week before heading to Montreal for the season finale. Philadelphia has three straight road games before returning home against Carolina for their last games of the season.

With the Flyers the Rangers’ most likely first-round foes -- though the Columbus Blue Jackets are still making a push -- the territorial advantage is deemed critical.

“Having home ice is huge,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “Having a Game 7 at home is obviously an advantage.”

Most importantly, the team wants to be playing its best hockey when the regular season ends and the meaningful games begin.

“We’re going to work on that,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “To finish as high as we can within the conference.”

As for some of the team’s key injured players, both defenseman Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) and Chris Kreider (hand) took part in morning skate Tuesday. Although Kreider has a cast on his left hand and is out indefinitely, McDonagh’s availability looks more promising.

Vigneault left open the possibility that the team's top defenseman could rejoin it for a full practice Wednesday, but he said he’s still deciding whether he’d allow him to play -- even if healthy -- before the playoffs start.

“I’m 50-50 on that,” he said.