Despite a loss in their last game, the New York Rangers' magic number for clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference is at one point. Completing their first season sweep of the archrival Philadelphia Flyers in 40 years would certainly be an impressive way to achieve that goal.
The Rangers will try again to secure their first No. 1 seed since 1993-94 on Tuesday night as they face a Flyers team that's all but locked into a playoff matchup with Pittsburgh.
New York (50-22-7) couldn't finish another season sweep in its last outing, falling 2-1 to Boston on Sunday as its four-game winning streak was snapped and it failed to close out the East race.
If the Rangers gain a point or the Penguins don't win their final three games, New York will secure the East crown. The club can set a team record for victories by winning its final three contests, which would push it past the '93-'94 Stanley Cup-winning edition.
"We weren't really thinking about it too much," captain Ryan Callahan said of the Rangers hitting the ice Sunday with a chance to clinch. "Right along here we've been saying that we're concentrating on our game, what we need to do, and if we do what we have to do then everything else will fall into place."
Focus hasn't been an issue against Philadelphia this season, with New York winning all five matchups by a combined 19-8. The Rangers, who took the last meeting 5-2 at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 11, last swept the Flyers in 1971-72 by winning all six games.
"You definitely don't go into a game thinking about one point," center Brad Richards said after the defeat to the Bruins. " ... We all know what's at stake, but we've still got three games left in the season to continue to do what we want to do here."
New York is also tied with Vancouver and one point up on St. Louis in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.
Philadelphia (46-24-9) appears headed for a first-round meeting with Pittsburgh - one that seems certain to be heated after the Flyers' 6-4 victory over the Penguins on Sunday. Jakub Voracek scored twice as the Flyers recorded four goals in the third period, and the game deteriorated into an extended brawl with just over a minute to play that left coaches of both teams screaming at each other across the glass.
"Playoffs are coming, and we're not gonna back down," said center Claude Giroux, who had a goal and two assists.
The news wasn't all good for Philadelphia, though. Danny Briere - the target of the hit that set off the brawl - is out indefinitely with an upper-back contusion, while defenseman Nicklas Grossmann (lower body injury) will miss the final week of the regular season.
It's uncertain if goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who has missed three games with a bone chip in his foot, will be able to play Tuesday.
While Philadelphia may be all but set to face Pittsburgh in the postseason, the teams are still battling for home ice in that likely matchup. The Flyers pulled to within one point of the Penguins for the fourth seed, and the teams meet in their season finale Saturday.
Philadelphia has gone 4-1-1 in its last six overall but has dropped its last two at home, giving up nine goals in defeats to Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
New York's Marian Gaborik scored his 40th goal Sunday and has five goals and three assists in his last five games. He has three goals and four assists versus Philadelphia in 2011-12.
Callahan recorded a hat trick in the teams' last meeting and has eight goals - two fewer than Philadelphia has totaled - during the Rangers' seven-game series win streak.
The Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, who has made a season-high nine straight starts, has posted a 1.60 goals-against average and one shutout in starting each game against Philadelphia this season.
- Philadelphia Flyers
- New York