Rangers-Jets Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Rangers earned some separation atop the Eastern Conference standings with their most recent victory, and there's a good chance they'll be able to extend their lead in their next contest as well.

Visiting New York looks to continue its dominance of the fading Winnipeg Jets when the teams face off Wednesday night.

The Rangers (48-21-7) moved three points ahead of Pittsburgh for first place in the East with a 3-2 win at Minnesota on Tuesday. The Penguins lost 5-3 to the New York Islanders earlier in the night.

Brian Boyle scored, Marian Gaborik netted his 38th goal and Ruslan Fedotenko scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period. The Rangers can pull five points ahead of the idle Penguins with a win Wednesday.

"Two points is big for us, but we want to be better," Boyle said.

Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for New York, which has won four of five following a 2-5-0 stretch.

"It's in our hands still. So as long as we focus on our job and do the right things, then we'll be fine," Lundqvist said.

It's unclear if Lundqvist will be in goal Wednesday, though it may not matter whether he or Martin Biron gets the start.

The Rangers have outscored the Jets 8-1 in winning all three meetings this season, with the last two being shutouts. Biron made 27 saves in a 2-1 road win Oct. 24, then stopped all 23 shots in a 3-0 victory Nov. 6, as Gaborik scored twice.

Lundqvist earned one of his eight shutouts this season by making 22 saves in a 3-0 win Jan. 24.

Winnipeg (35-33-8) will need a better effort this time around if it hopes to improve its slim chances of qualifying for the postseason.

The Jets trail eighth-place Buffalo by eight points with six games remaining. Although the Sabres have just five games left, Winnipeg has been heading in the wrong direction by losing four of five, including a 6-4 home defeat to Ottawa on Monday.

Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves but fell to 1-4-0 with a 4.18 goals-against average during the slump, and he knows the recent poor play isn't something the Jets can get away with against the East leaders.

"The Rangers are coming up, a hard team to play against. If we're going to play like that they're going to kill us again," Pavelec said. "It's pretty simple. I don't think this is the hockey that's going to take us to the playoffs."

Winnipeg will need plenty of help along with wins of its own to sneak into the postseason, but it still hasn't given up hope.

"It's not like we're eliminated yet," forward Bryan Little told the team's official website. "There is still a slight hope but like I said, we can't be talking about making the playoffs and being so worried about it, we just have to try to play our best hockey and win as many games as we can."

Coach Claude Noel has kept his message simple while trying not to look too far ahead.

"Tomorrow the sun comes up and we have to look forward to getting back to work and playing the Rangers - a tough team, a new challenge," Noel said. "Strap it on and let's go. That's what you have to do."

The Rangers have won two straight on the road, while the Jets have lost their last two at home.