Things could not have gone better for the Rangers last night -- and they didn't even play. Montreal lost and the Islanders lost. Someone one had to win the Tampa-Carolina game, but the Rangers caught a break when Tampa won it in regulation. Gathering together all the results of games played while the Rangers were resting these past three days, the consequences are clear -- with five games left, the Rangers can pretty much assure themselves of a playoff spot with wins this weekend over the last place Flyers and a playoff rival, Toronto.
Things will not be easy in Philly this evening despite the Flyers' record. Todd Fedoruk will not be able to seek revenge against Colton Orr for knocking him out last week, but other Flyers will (see the Daily News, Blue Notes, and Courier-Post). The Rangers appear ready to juggle their lines tonight, with Brad Isbister on the left side of Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander (Jed Ortmeyer will rest his sore knee), Martin Straka between Ryan Callahan and Sean Avery, and Brendan Shanahan skating with Matt Cullen and Petr Prucha (see Blueshirts Blog).
Avery and his unexpected relationship with Jagr was the big story to emerge from yesterday's practice -- see the Journal News, Times, Post, and Rangers Report. "He could be easily a Czech," Jagr the relentless quipster said of the sharp-tongued Avery. In other news, the New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Jed Ortmeyer as the Rangers' candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverence and dedication to hockey (see Blue Notes). And at NHL.com, an item about the Rangers' personal hot potato, the two-goal lead. In Hartford, Nigel Dawes had a hat trick as the Wolf Pack won their fourth straight, with help from his hot new linemate Alex Bourret (see the Courant and NY Sports Day). Charlotte prepares for a pair of weekend games that may decide its playoff fate (see Charlotte Observer). And Jess Rubenstein checks in with a brief playoff update:
We have only three games to report on. Ryan Hillier and Halifax tried to finish off Moncton on the Mooseheads' home ice, but Moncton forced a deciding Game 7, edging the Mooseheads 4-3. Hillier had an assist in the losing effort. With Saginaw facing a do or die home game, Tom Pyatt broke out with two goals and two assists as the Spirit slammed Sault Ste. Marie 7-1. They now trail 3-2 in this first round series. For Pyatt, these were his first goals of the playoffs, earning second star honors for his efforts. Michael Sauer and Medicine Hat did not expect Red Deer to put up this kind of fight going into Game 5 of their series, tied a 2-2. But the Tigers did not overlook them this time, shutting the Rebels out 4-0 to grab a 3-2 series lead.