Overview
The Rangers continue their season-high six-game road trip tonight when they faceoff against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center (7:00 p.m.), in their second game of a back-to-back set. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division, and ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, with a record of 35-32-10 (80 pts.). The Rangers enter tonight’s contest having defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-0, on Friday in Tampa, to improve to 3-0-1 on their current road trip and 4-0-1 in their last five games overall. The Panthers enter the contest with a 31-34-12 (74 pts.) record to rank 13th in the Eastern Conference. Following tonight’s contest, the Rangers return to action on Tuesday, April 6, when they will faceoff against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena (7:00 p.m.) in Buffalo, to conclude their six-game road trip.

Game Notes
A new season began for the Rangers Tuesday night against the Islanders. With seven games remaining at that point and the Rangers seemingly out of the playoffs, something clicked. For the entire year the Rangers played like a different team every week, going from contender to pretender in a matter of just a few games. Suddenly, the Rangers are playing each game as though these last seven games are a playoff series.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Rangers’ chances of playing postseason hockey was a dismal 6.95% just ten days ago. After beating the Lightning last night that number was 45.75%, and following the Atlanta Thrasher’s OT-loss against Pittsburgh this afternoon, the Rangers’ now have a 46.17% chance of making the playoffs. With a win tonight against the Panthers, the Blueshirts (80 pts.) would move ahead of Atlanta (81) by one point and tie Boston and Philadelphia (82 each), and pull within two points of the sixth-place Montreal Canadiens – which is amazing considering this club was left for dead just a few weeks ago. Philadelphia is off tonight, Boston is in Toronto, and Montreal hosts Buffalo. Everything has been falling perfectly into place for the Rangers lately, so losses by both Montreal and Boston doesn’t seem very farfetched.

The Rangers control their own destiny, and it looks like this club is destined for the playoffs.

Injury Report
Rangers’ forwards Sean Avery (knee), Ryan Callahan (knee) and Brian Boyle (ankle/foot) were all out of the lineup Friday in Tampa Bay, and are considered day-to-day. There’s no timetable set for any of their returns. With those three most likely out tonight, here’s the Probable Lines:

Dubinsky-Christensen-Gaborik
Prospal-Locke-Drury
Voros-Jokinen-Parenteau
Shelley-Anisimov-Prust

Staal-Rozsival
Del Zotto-Girardi
Redden-Eriksson

Quote of the Day
“When you start winning, you start feeling more confident,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said Friday. “We just have to stay within ourselves and just try to find a way to play simple games and get wins.”

Prediction
The Rangers are simply rolling right now. Henrik Lundqvist is 4-0-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average, .942 save percentage and two shutouts in his last five starts. Marian Gaborik has four goals and four assists in the last seven games, and rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto has two goals and five assists in the last six games. This is a team that clearly wants to make the playoffs more than the Thrashers, Bruins, and Flyers; and that’s what it all come down to. The push for the playoffs continues tonight. Rangers win 4-2.

Shot Calling – Olli Jokinen with one goal and one assist.

Photo Credit: Getty Images