A victory over their cross-town rivals their last time out clinched a playoff berth for the New York Rangers. Another win over them could give the Rangers a shot at home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years.
The Rangers look to sweep the home-and-home series over the struggling New York Islanders and keep their home-ice hopes alive as they meet Friday at Madison Square Garden.
|Henrik Lundqvist leads the NHL with 10 shutouts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Rangers (42-27-11) defeated the Islanders 3-0 on Thursday to earn their third straight trip to the playoffs.
"It feels great to be in the playoffs - again," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 25 shots for his league-leading 10th shutout. "You never know what can happen with three games to go and you need one more point. It's good to get it over with right away. We played great."
The Rangers are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind fourth-place New Jersey, which visits ninth-place Philadelphia on Friday and hosts the Rangers on Sunday in the regular season finale. If New York and New Jersey finish tied in points, the Devils will earn home ice because they have won more games.
The Rangers have not had home ice in the playoffs since 1996.
On Thursday, Rangers right wing Jaromir Jagr scored two power-play goals in a 1:59 span of the first period as he continued his success versus the Islanders.
In 90 career games against the Islanders, Jagr has 58 goals and 81 assists - his most against any opponent in his career. No one has scored more goals versus the Islanders, either.
Jagr, who has five goals and three assists in his last six games, has three goals and three assists in seven games against the Islanders this season.
"It's not about one guy. It's about the team," Jagr said. "It's not easy to make the playoffs anymore. You have 30 teams, and half of the teams don't make the playoffs."
Lundqvist has been in net in each game against the Islanders this season, and is 3-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average in his last four games versus them after losing the first three.
Rangers left wing Brendan Shanahan, who has 23 goals and 23 assists in 71 games, sat out due to a leg strain Thursday, but coach Tom Renney said he expects him to play in this game.
The Islanders (34-38-9) dropped their fourth straight on Thursday, and are just 2-9-2 since March 6.
|Jaromir Jagr scored two power-play goals in the Rangers' playoff clincher last night. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
New York, which has long been eliminated from the playoffs, has scored one goal or less in three of its last four games.
"We've got good people here," said Isles captain Bill Guerin, who has just one assist in seven games against the Rangers this season. "It's not an easy time for us to play, but guys are showing up and playing hard. Different people have different motivations, but we're working hard out there."
Wade Dubielewicz made 32 saves on Thursday, and fell to 2-3-1 with a 2.15 GAA since All-Star Rick DiPietro was lost for the season with a hip injury. Dubielewicz is 1-2-0 with a 2.94 GAA versus the Rangers this season.
The Islanders have lost six of their last seven on the road, getting outscored 27-12 in those contests. The Rangers, meanwhile, are 8-0-2 at Madison Square Garden since Feb. 16.