Maple Leafs-Rangers Preview

The New York Rangers are running out of time to secure a playoff
berth, but a fortuitous season-ending schedule could help them. A
better performance from Henrik Lundqvist would also provide a major
lift.

Lundqvist should be back in net as the Rangers attempt to take
advantage of a meeting with the Eastern Conference-worst Toronto
Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

With three games left in the regular season, New York (36-33-10)
is ninth in the East, three points back of Boston for the eighth
and final playoff spot and four behind seventh-place
Philadelphia.

The Rangers might be in ideal position to catch one of those
teams, especially with a game in hand on the Flyers.

After facing Toronto (29-37-14), New York concludes the season
with a home-and-home set against Philadelphia this weekend. If the
Rangers win all three games, they’re guaranteed a playoff spot.

“This is our season,” said center Brandon Dubinsky, who has
three goals and three assists in his last nine games. “Until all
eight teams are locked, we’re going to continue to fight.”

The Rangers failed to help themselves Tuesday, losing 5-2 at
Buffalo.

“We didn’t play well enough to win,” coach John Tortorella said.
“We have another game to play (Wednesday) and we need to be better
from our goaltending on out.”

Lundqvist got pulled early in the second period Tuesday after
allowing three goals on 16 shots. Backup Alex Auld wasn’t much
better, giving up two goals on 14 Sabres shots.

Lundqvist had been 5-0-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average and
two shutouts in his previous six games – the lone loss coming in a
3-2 overtime defeat at Toronto on March 27. He made 29 saves before
allowing Nikolai Kulemin’s deciding goal 39 seconds into the extra
session.

Even after that performance, Lundqvist has won two of three
games against the Leafs this season while posting a 1.99 GAA.

The Maple Leafs are at the bottom of the East and are assured of
missing the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season. They’ve
dropped four of five, including a 2-0 home loss to Philadelphia on
Tuesday.

Toronto’s punchless power play has been a major problem all
season, ranking last in the NHL with a 14.2 percent success rate.
The unit has been even worse lately, going 2 for 48 over the past
12 games. It came up empty on all six chances against the
Flyers.

“Our power play has been god awful a good part of the season,”
coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve got to find people who are going to
do some of the grunt work like having Colton Orr on the last power
play. It was the only power play where we had sustained pressure
because he won some battles and retrieved some pucks.”

Phil Kessel, the Leafs’ leader with 30 goals and 55 points, has
been kept off the scoresheet in consecutive games after scoring
nine goals – two on the power play – with five assists in his
previous 15 contests.

The right wing has one goal and two assists in 12 career games
against the Rangers. He failed to get a point against them last
month and posted a minus-2 rating.

Toronto concludes its season Saturday at Montreal.