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W2W4: Rangers vs. Kings

Here's what to watch for when the New York Rangers play the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden:

Same teams, different year: This is the first time the Kings will be back at the Garden since beating the Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals last June, but the two teams are in different places now. The Rangers hold the NHL's best record and are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. The Kings have struggled so much that if the playoffs began today, they'd be on the outside looking in. The Kings are four points behind the red-hot Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff spot in the West, and while the Kings do have a game in hand, there's no question the Rangers will be facing a desperate team.

It's magic: The Rangers can't officially clinch a playoff spot Tuesday night, but they should clinch one this week. Their magic number is now four, meaning any combination of four Ranger points gained and Boston points dropped would do it. Because of the NHL's weird points structure and tiebreaker system, the magic number would drop to one with a regulation or overtime win, but only to two with a shootout win. The Bruins, who trail Ottawa by one point in the race for the final playoff spot (and have played one more game than the Senators), don't play again until Thursday.

The Kings, but no King yet: Henrik Lundqvist joined the Rangers for their morning skate, his first practice with the team since he last played Feb. 2. But Lundqvist, recovering from a serious vascular injury in his neck, is not ready to play yet. Cam Talbot, who has gone 15-3-3 in Lundqvist's absence with a .930 save percentage, will be in net again Tuesday night.

First to 100: With a win or even an overtime or shootout loss Tuesday, the Rangers could become the first NHL team this season with 100 points. The Rangers have had 100 points only seven times in franchise history and this would be the second fastest they've gotten there. The 1971-72 team reached 100 points in 67 games, while the 2014-15 team is playing its 72nd game Tuesday night.

Winning the West: Western Conference teams have won the past three Stanley Cups (two by the Kings, one by the Chicago Blackhawks), and the feeling going into this season was that the West was still stronger. But the gap seems to have narrowed or perhaps even closed completely. In fact, the Rangers have a better record against the West this season than they do against the East. The Rangers are 16-4-5 against Western Conference teams, including 11-1-1 against the Pacific Division. In their only other meeting, the Rangers beat the Kings 4-3 on Jan. 8 at Staples Center.