With a playoff berth still up for grabs, the New York Rangers could have their leading goal-scorer back for the stretch run.
Shanahan suffered a concussion and was removed on a stretcher following a violent open-ice collision with Philadelphia’s Mike Knuble during a 4-2 loss on Feb. 17 at MSG. Shanahan still leads New York with 28 goals despite missing 15 games, and the Rangers picked up 20 of a possible 30 points over that stretch by going 8-3-4.
The Rangers haven’t released any information about Shanahan’s status for this game, but Shanahan told Newsday’s Web site on Tuesday that he will play.
“I can’t do any more than I’ve done in practice,” said Shanahan, who has four assists and five points in six games against the Flyers this season. “I’ve got the approval of the coaches and medical staff and I’m ready to go. I won’t play the role I had when I left the lineup, at least not immediately.”
New York (36-28-9) begins play in seventh place with 81 points and has 10 games left in the regular season. Montreal, defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina and Toronto are tied for eighth with 80 points, and the New York Islanders are in 11th with 79 points.
The Rangers also will try to avoid a collapse like last season’s in which they lost their final five regular-season games to fall from the Atlantic Division lead to sixth in the Eastern Conference. New York’s first playoff appearance since 1996-97 ended with a four-game sweep by rival New Jersey in the opening round.
While the addition of Shanahan could help the Rangers secure a return trip to the postseason, a stingy defense led by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist ultimately could be the clincher. Over the last seven games, the Rangers have allowed only 11 goals—none coming in the first period.
Lundqvist is 5-1-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average in his last seven games at home, including shutout wins over Montreal and Boston. In last month’s loss to the Flyers when Shanahan was hurt, though, Lundqvist was lifted after two periods due to a injured left shoulder while making a save.
New York is 4-2-0 against the Flyers, but has allowed nine goals in the losses, both of which have come at MSG.
The Rangers temporarily gave themselves some breathing room with a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Monday night. Jaromir Jagr, the Rangers’ leading scorer with 60 assists and 85 points, scored the go-ahead goal with 33.8 seconds to play after a video review. He has a goal and five assists versus Philadelphia this season.
The Flyers’ worst season in franchise history reached another new low Tuesday night. Philadelphia was swept in a four-game season series by Florida for the first time after a 4-1 defeat.
Dmitry Afanasekov’s goal with less than seven minutes in the second period tied the score at 1 before Philadelphia (20-42-11) surrendered three unanswered goals en route to its fourth loss in five games overall.
“We gave them some breakouts and some opportunities, and you can’t have that,” said goaltender Martin Biron, who fell to 4-4-1 since being acquired from Buffalo on Feb. 27.
Philadelphia will try to snap a four-game road losing streak.
Knuble, who missed 12 games with a fractured cheekbone and orbital bone after colliding with Shanahan, has failed to record a point in three games since returning Thursday in a loss to Atlanta.
The Flyers played Tuesday without leading scorer Simon Gagne (groin) and Scottie Upshall (shoulder). Gagne has 37 goals and 56 points while Upshall has six goals and 10 points in 14 games after being acquired from Nashville last month in the deal for Peter Forsberg.