NEW YORK -- Already safely in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, the New York Rangers could clinch home ice for the first round with the right combination of results Sunday.
If the Rangers beat the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden, and the New York Islanders lose in regulation to the Detroit Red Wings at the Coliseum, the Rangers would guarantee finishing no lower than second in the Metropolitan Division, and thus opening the playoffs at home. The Rangers begin the day in first place in the division with 101 points, eight more than the Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers have eight games remaining, two more than the Islanders and one more than the Penguins.
"It's something that prior to the season, we talked to the team about," coach Alain Vigneault said. "That's the next step right now. Obviously, we're a good road team, but playing in front of our fans and getting that advantage would be nice."
Vigneault said he hasn't yet given much thought to which team the Rangers would play in the first round (as of now, it would be Washington, but it's so close that it changes almost daily). He said he's not terribly concerned about analyzing the potential matchups.
"As you're talking to other coaches and general managers, everybody's got the same theme: 'Pick your poison,'" he said. "Every one of the 16 teams that gets in has a legitimate chance to win the Cup."
Hunwick out, Summers up: Defenseman Matt Hunwick will miss Sunday's game with an upper-body injury, so the Rangers recalled Chris Summers from Hartford of the AHL. Summers, acquired along with Keith Yandle in the deadline trade with the Arizona Coyotes, played 64 NHL games over five seasons with the Coyotes.
St. Louis skates: Martin St. Louis skated by himself Sunday morning, moving closer to a return from a knee injury that has kept him out of the last six games.
"Every day's a better day," Vigneault said, without giving any estimate of when St. Louis will play.