At the start of this lockout-shortened season, the notion of the Rangers missing the playoffs after last season’s run to the Eastern Conference final seemed ridiculous.

Then the season started and it became clear this season’s model was nothing like the consistent, hard-working version of 2011-12.

Finally, though, these Rangers resemble what they were supposed to be.

So, there can be no excuses if they do miss the postseason. Now, sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference heading into tonight’s game at Philadelphia and with none of their seven remaining games against teams likely to reach the postseason, the Rangers have destiny in their hands.

"We’re in a spot right now if we continue to play the way we need, we’re going to have a very good chance of being there," center Derek Stepan said. "That’s all you can ask for at the end of the year, to be able to control that."

After making repeated comments about how his forward depth was depleted from last season, coach John Tortorella finally has a personnel group to satisfy his needs.

The acquisitions of rugged Ryane Clowe, playmaking center Derick Brassard and offensive-minded defenseman John Moore added depth even at the expense of trading elite scorer Marian Gaborik.

"They’ve balanced the middle of our lineup," Tortorella said. "We found that out really quickly when we started playing this year that we lost the middle of our lineup. I don’t think any of us really felt how naked we’d really be. I felt it the first game. I think we’ve corrected that."