The New York Rangers are already excused from the Eastern Conference playoff discussion.
They can subject another team to the same fate tonight, as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes to start a four game road trip that will end the season (7:00 PM, MSG2).
Last night’s home finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning was an emotional one for the Rangers (33-36-9), who welcomed back several familiar faces to Madison Square Garden. JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh, infamously dealt at this year’s trade deadline, were each honored with a video tribute prior to the game, as they played their first MSG game in an opponent’s uniform. Dan Girardi, who signed with Tampa in the offseason, also was honored, as he likewise made an MSG return. The pregame festivities also featured Henrik Lundqvist earning the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, the second of his career. Lundqvist is expected to return to net tonight in Carolina. The game itself was mostly a mere afterthought, with the Rangers falling 7-3, but MSG experienced further joy when Filip Chytil scored the first goal of his NHL career. Miller and Girardi had goals for Tampa Bay.
👀 it here!
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 31, 2018
Meanwhile, Carolina (35-32-11) is one loss or a New Jersey point away from continuing the longest playoff drought in the league, currently at eight years. They slightly helped their case with a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals last night on the road. The Hurricanes scored four unanswered goals after trailing 1-0, with four different players earning tallies.
The Rangers will go for a season sweep of Carolina, winning the first three meetings this season by a combined 18-5 tally. The last showdown in Carolina came on November 22, a 6-1 Rangers win. Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast led the way with two goals each, while Mika Zibanejad and Paul Carey likewise had goals.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490