“I’m so alive, I’m so alive, I’m so alive. You can make it on a wish if you want to.” — So Alive, Goo Goo Dolls
Technically, the Rangers are still alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But that’s just semantics. It would take a whole lot of wishing for the Blueshirts to make the postseason.
And the only reason to care about this technicality is because of its’ significance to Henrik Lundqvist.
The King has never appeared in a regular season game in which the Blueshirts were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. (The only year he didn’t make the playoffs, the Rangers were eliminated in a shootout on the final day of the season; 2009-10).
As that sad day draws closer, the Blueshirts are firmly focused on what will be a busy offseason.
But before they can get there, they still have games on the schedule. And as a matter of pride, the team will go out there and try to win as many games as it can; starting against the Panthers.
DEEP ROOTED CONNECTIONS
Steven Kampfer spent parts of three seasons with the Panthers (2014-15 – 2016-17).
Keith Yandle spent part of two seasons in New York (2014-15 & 2015-16).
Lindy Ruff began his NHL coaching career as an Assistant Coach for the Panthers (1993-94 – 1996-97).
Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist rank first and second, respectively, among active NHL goaltenders in several categories: career appearances, career wins and career shutouts.
Mats Zuccarello: The scrappy winger is three goals away from 100 in his NHL career.
Mika Zibanejad: The Rangers’ top-line center is three goals away from 100 in his NHL career. Zibanejad is also five games away from 400 in his career.
Kevin Hayes: The Blueshirts’ do-it-all-center is three assists shy of 100 in his NHL career. Hayes is also four games away from 300 in his career.
Henrik Lundqvist: The future Hall-of-Fame goaltender is closing in on another career milestone; his next appearance will be the 800th of his NHL career.
PLAYER TO WATCH
PANTHERS: ALEKSANDER BARKOV. The Finnish 22-year-old center leads Florida in points with 68. And on top of that, Barkov is white hot, as he has points in eight straight games and 15 of 17. During his current eight-game streak, Barkov has amasses 14 points and is a huge reason why Florida is in the thick of the playoff race.
RANGERS: RYAN SPOONER. The Spoonman continues to impress with 10 points in six games as a Blueshirt. It’s safe to say, the Rangers did not expect this level of production when they acquired him. And now, the team has a difficult decision on its’ hands. Does it trade Spooner over the summer? Or does it sign him long-term and hope he maintains his current level of productivity?
Chris Kreider was removed for “precautionary reasons” early in the first period against Tampa. Head Coach Alain Vigneault said on Friday, Kreider is 50/50 to play against the Panthers.
Kevin Shattenkirk is practicing with the team and has been rotating in with the regular defense pairings.
He will return soon.
As for the rest of the lineup, expect some line shuffling; ditto on defense.
WHERE TO WATCH
The game will be broadcast on MSG Networks at 7 pm ET. For in-game coverage check out our Twitter account @NYRBlueBulletin.
A three-game win-streak in Western Canada provided Rangers fans with a glimmer of hope that the team could make the playoffs.
But back-to-back losses against Winnipeg and Tampa slapped everybody back to reality.