It wasn’t lost on the Rangers what team is waiting for them on the other side of this Christmas break, and how within the clustered Metropolitan Division, one game could end up being the difference. The Rangers come out of the league’s civil three-day break, with a matchup against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Wednesday night at the Garden, off two straight losses. They are 4-3-2 in their previous nine games, but still have managed to position themselves in the first wild-card spot with 42 points in 36 games. There are four points between the Rangers and the second-place Capitals, who have 46 points in 37 games. The Blueshirts are five points behind the first-place Devils, who have 47 points in 35 games. Looking down, there are the Islanders, tied in points and games played, but in the second wild-card spot due to having one fewer win in regulation or overtime. Not far behind are the Hurricanes (39 points), the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (39), and the last-place Flyers, with 38 points. That’s nine points between first and last, and the Rangers are jammed right in the middle. It makes all of the divisional games even more important, and keeping pace is going to be an arduous task. “It’s not going to get any easier in here as we continue,” captain Ryan McDonagh said after the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs at the Garden on Saturday night. “It’s always tight. We have to find a way collectively as a team here to put together some good efforts back to back.” The efforts of the team have varied quite a bit since they came off a six-game winning streak, which ended Nov. 15 in Chicago. Since then, most of their victories — of which there are 10 in 17 games — have come on the back of the brilliance of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Rangers out to separate themselves in cutthroat division
New York Post | Dec 27