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Playoff spot could be on line for Rangers

by Dave Lozo

RANGERS (24-17-4) at PANTHERS (13-26-6)


Last 10: New York 7-2-1; Florida 3-7-0

Season series: This is the third and final meeting between the teams this season. They split their first two games, both at Madison Square Garden, with the Rangers winning 6-1 on Thursday.

Big story: Depending on the outcome of the Jets-Sabres game Monday, the Rangers could clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win against the Panthers. The Jets are three points back in ninth, and a regulation loss Monday would set the stage for the Rangers to clinch. On the other side of the coin is the Panthers, who would guarantee themselves a 30th-place finish in the League with a loss of any kind to the Rangers. By finishing 30th, the Panthers would guarantee themselves a top-two pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Team Scope:

Rangers: The Rangers entered the month as the League's worst offensive team, but have risen to 17th in goals per game with 41 goals in 11 April games. With a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, the Rangers moved another step closer to a playoff berth.

"We're playing our best hockey we've played all year," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who scored twice against the Devils, said. "Now is the time to do that. We've been playing playoff-style hockey the last couple of games. These are must-wins for us. It gives us a dress rehearsal for the playoffs."

Panthers: All that is left for Florida is to play with "dignity and pride," according to coach Kevin Dineen after the Panthers lost 3-0 in Boston on Sunday. It was the team's sixth consecutive loss, all in regulation.

"There was enough try to give us an opportunity to be very competitive in this game," Dineen said. "At the end of it, you have to find a way, with what we have, to try to create some kind of offense. Again, for the most part, there was some real effort tonight, which is encouraging and what we have to have for us to go home and keep pushing with some dignity and pride here. We're going to certainly need that kind of effort at home, but I don't think we're going to see a lot of incredibly fancy goals out of us. It's going to be just through hard work and guts."

Who's hot: Brad Richards has come to life in the past three games, with four goals and three assists.

Injury report: Rangers forward Brian Boyle (lower body) is doubtful and forward Derek Dorsett (collarbone) and defenseman Marc Staal (right eye) are out. … The Panthers are without goaltender Jose Theodore (groin), defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip), and forwards Sean Bergenheim (groin), Eric Selleck (concussion), Kris Versteeg (knee) and Stephen Weiss (wrist).

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