Rangers push for home ice vs. Sabres

( - The New York Rangers will try to improve their chances of starting the playoffs at home when they host the lowly Buffalo Sabres in Thursday's meeting at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers have clinched a postseason berth, but are still battling for playoff positioning. They are currently second in the Metropolitan Division with 93 points, two ahead of Philadelphia and Columbus. If New York can finish the season in second, it will host the division's third-place club in the opening round of the playoffs.

New York has two games left in the regular season, giving the Flyers, who visit Tampa Bay on Thursday, a game in hand. Columbus also has two games left, but the club is idle this evening.

The Rangers ended a two-game slide in their last outing, as they downed the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, in Tuesday's game at MSG. Brad Richards potted a pair of power-play goals to back a 27-save effort from Henrik Lundqvist in the home victory.

Benoit Pouliot and Derek Stepan also scored to help the Rangers win for the third time in five outings and improve to 8-2-1 over their past 11 contests.

"We talked before the game that we have been playing good hockey for a long time, and we want to go into the playoffs feeling good about our game," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said.

Martin St. Louis also had his most productive game in a Rangers uniform, contributing three assists to the victory. The winger recorded his first multi-point game since coming to New York in a trade last month and now has one goal and six assists in 18 tilts with his new club.

Thursday's test marks is the final test of a three-game homestand and is also New York's last regular-season tilt as the host. The Blueshirts are 19-17-4 as the home club in 2013-14.

The Sabres have three games left in their trying season, but not even winning all three could prevent them from finishing last in the NHL standings.

Buffalo has lost four straight in regulation and eight of its past nine outings and was handed a 4-2 loss by visiting Detroit on Tuesday. Darren Helm, David Legwand and Pavel Datsyuk scored third-period goals to lead the Red Wings to victory.

Zemgus Girgensons recorded both goals and Cody Hodgson assisted twice for the Sabres. Matt Hackett stopped 33 shots.

"When you play a good team like Detroit, they know how to close deals," Sabres head coach Ted Nolan said.

Buffalo is kicking off a two-game road trip this evening before capping its season with Sunday's home test against the New York Islanders. The Sabres are 8-28-3 as the visiting team this season.

The Rangers are 2-0 against Buffalo this season and have claimed three straight, four of five and seven of the past nine encounters in this series. Buffalo has lost two straight and three of four in the Big Apple.