The New York Rangers will try to get their playoff push back on track when they host the lowly Florida Panthers in Thursday's tilt at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers enter Thursday tied with the Winnipeg Jets at 46 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. With six games remaining on its regular-season schedule, New York does hold a game in hand over the Jets, who host Carolina on Thursday evening.
New York allowed the Jets to forge a tie for the eighth spot on Tuesday, when the Rangers lost a regulation decision in Philadelphia and Winnipeg notched a shootout win over visiting Tampa Bay.
The New York Islanders also won a home test against Florida on Tuesday, moving them three points ahead of the rival Rangers for the conference's seventh seed. The Isles are visiting Toronto tonight.
Playing two of their last six games of the regular season against the Panthers isn't likely to hurt the Rangers' postseason chances. Florida is dead last in the NHL with 32 points and has surrendered a total of 15 goals during its current three-game losing streak.
The Rangers, who will visit Florida on Tuesday, had won three straight against the Panthers before dropping a 3-1 home decision when the clubs last met on March 21. New York still has four wins in its last six home meetings against Florida.
Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason frustrated the Rangers in Tuesday's setback, as he made 38 saves to keep New York from aiding its playoff chances. It was just the second win for the Flyers in their last 13 games against the Blueshirts.
Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello netted a goal apiece in the loss, while Henrik Lundqvist allowed three goals on 21 shots for the Rangers, who had won two straight.
"We just couldn't solve Mason," Rangers coach John Tortorella admitted. "We developed some offense, we couldn't solve Mason."
Rangers forward Brian Boyle left in the first period of Tuesday's game with an injured right leg and did not return. The big centerman is questionable for tonight's contest.
New York is playing two of its next three games on home ice and is 13-6-2 at MSG this season.
The Panthers have been outscored 15-5 during their three-game slide and were dealt a 5-2 loss by the Islanders on Tuesday. Michael Grabner scored a pair of goals to help the home team cruise to the easy win at Nassau Coliseum.
Marcel Goc finished with a goal and an assist and Dmitry Kulikov netted a power-play tally for Florida. Jacob Markstrom stopped just 13-of-18 shots before being removed early in the second period in favor of Scott Clemmensen, who turned back all 13 chances he faced.
"It's never fun to get pulled as a goalie," Markstrom said afterward. "Anybody's that's been a goalie and been pulled, it's embarrassing. It's tough."
Florida is 6-13-1 as the visiting team this season and is playing the second part of a four-game road trip on Thursday.