After failing to secure a playoff berth in their last opportunity, the New York Rangers don't want to waste another chance against one of the league's worst teams - and one they've dominated recently.
New York will try again to clinch a third straight postseason appearance Thursday night in Raleigh by claiming its eighth consecutive victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Rangers (24-18-4) are focused on taking care of business with a win, though they can also wrap up an Eastern Conference playoff spot if ninth-place Winnipeg loses in regulation to Montreal on Thursday. Additionally, New York would qualify for the postseason if both teams earn a point.
"We don't want to back in," said center Brad Richards, who has four goals and four assists over the last four games. "We'll get back to work and still control our fate if we win. That's all we can ask for."
Following a Jets' regulation loss Tuesday, New York missed a prime opportunity to punch its playoff ticket as league-worst Florida rallied for two third-period goals in a 3-2 victory that snapped the Rangers' three-game winning streak.
Carolina (19-24-3) isn't far ahead of the Panthers, tied for the league's fourth-fewest points, and has lost seven in a row to New York while getting held to 13 goals. Henrik Lundqvist won four of those games, posting a 1.44 goals-against average and keeping the Hurricanes without a goal in two shootouts.
Lundqvist was in net for both meetings this season, including 48 saves a 4-1 victory April 6 in the last matchup as the Rangers won in Raleigh for the sixth time in seven tries.
Ryan Callahan will try to extend a seven-game point streak in this series that's included six goals and three assists. He's also recorded three goals and four assists over a five-game point streak overall.
Carolina is on a small run of its own, having recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since March 9-12.
Alexander Semin scored for the third time in four games as the Hurricanes claimed a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
While Semin has six points during a four-game streak, Jiri Tlusty has a six-game run during which he has four goals and four assists.
"We're starting to find our identity, and that's important going into next year," said Dan Ellis, who had 36 saves Tuesday for his second straight win after losing seven in a row.
Although he's 3-1-1 with a 2.07 GAA in his last five games against the Rangers, Ellis lost both starts this season and was pulled in the last meeting after allowing three goals over the first two periods.
Derek Stepan scored against Ellis in both matchups and has six goals with nine assists in 12 games this month, tying Rick Nash for the team lead with 40 points.
Eric Staal tops the Hurricanes with 50, and he's expected to team up with two brothers for the first time Thursday. Jordan Staal is in his first season with Carolina, and the team called up 22-year-old Jared Staal from Charlotte of the AHL on Wednesday.
Jared, the youngest of the three, has never appeared in the NHL. The Staals will become the 10th trio of brothers in North America's four major professional sports leagues - and the fourth in the NHL - to play for the same team in the same season.
"The more, the merrier," Eric, the team captain, said after practice Wednesday.
Another Staal brother, Marc, plays for the Rangers but hasn't taken the ice since getting injured March 5.