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Howard in net for Red Wings vs. Rangers

Detroit has to win in regulation or overtime to qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs for 25th consecutive season

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Jimmy Howard will be the goalie who hopes to help the Detroit Red Wings clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 25th straight season.

Howard starts against the New York Rangers on Saturday after getting pulled in a 5-2 loss against the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Detroit will clinch a playoff berth with a win in regulation or overtime against the Rangers.

"The goal that we set at the beginning of the year was to try to win the Stanley Cup; in order to do that you've got to gain entrance into the Stanley Cup Playoffs," coach Jeff Blashill said. "That's our focus here today, to win a hockey game so we can gain entrance into the Stanley Cup Playoffs so that we can have the opportunity to win the Cup. I have unbelievable respect for the streak and what it's meant, the job of the managers and players and coaches who have been a part of that, but our main focus is to try to win the Stanley Cup this year."

Forward Justin Abdelkader, who left the game against Boston in the third period with a lower-body injury, is expected to play against the Rangers. Blashill said the lineup will not be finalized until after warmups.

Video: DET@BOS: Howard kicks out the pad for a great stop

Howard was on the wrong side of a 1-0 overtime loss against the Rangers on Feb. 21 at Madison Square Garden. He made 29 saves. He is 4-2-2 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in eight games against the Rangers in his career.

The Rangers have a chance to finish third in the Metropolitan Division, which means they'd play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round. They will lock it up Saturday if they beat the Red Wings and the New York Islanders lose in regulation to the Buffalo Sabres. A loss of any kind will drop the Rangers into the first wild card from the Eastern Conference, meaning they'd open the playoffs against the Florida Panthers, who won the Atlantic Division.

Antti Raanta starts in goal for the Rangers on Saturday. It is his first career appearance against the Red Wings. 

New York is without defensemen Ryan McDonagh (right hand) and Dan Girardi (upper body), and forwards Viktor Stalberg (lower body) and Mats Zuccarello (lower body).

The Rangers recalled forward Marek Hrivik from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Friday and he's expected to play. Oscar Lindberg will also be in the lineup. Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath replace McDonagh and Girardi.

"Well, we know they've got lots of really good players in the lineup and they're a really good team," Blashill said. "Look at Raanta's numbers. I mean, his numbers are really good. His goals against average (2.26) is below Lundqvist (2.48) and his save percentage (.918) is just on the other side of it (.920). We know it's a great challenge regardless of who is in for them."

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