Injuries and unlucky bounces could prevent the New York Rangers from returning to the playoffs.
The short-handed Rangers will try to regroup when they meet the resurgent Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night in the teams' regular-season series finale.
The Rangers are 1-1-1 this season against the Thrashers, with the lone win coming at Philips Arena. On Nov. 10, Michael Nylander scored the first of his two goals 15 seconds into the contest to lead New York (34-28-8) to a 5-2 victory.
Nylander is coming off his first multigoal game since that contest. He scored twice in the first period of a 3-2 loss to Ottawa on Tuesday, which snapped the Rangers' season-high seven-game point streak. New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed the go-ahead goal with just over 11 minutes remaining when a drive by the Senators' Andrej Meszaros deflected in off the stick of the Rangers' Marek Malik.
"We have to figure out a way to win these games," said Nylander, who needs four goals to eclipse his career high of 25 set with Chicago in 2000-01. "It's happened several times. We have to play with more confidence."
Jaromir Jagr assisted on both of Nylander's goals Tuesday, and leads New York with 57 assists and 81 points. He also has two goals and five assists in a four-game point streak at Atlanta.
Besides losing the game, the Rangers also lost defenseman Karel Rachunek in the first period with a sprained right knee ligament that will keep him out for three to four weeks.
Rachunek is New York's second-leading scorer among defensemen with 26 points, and he joins an injury list that includes defenseman Fedor Tyutin and forward Marcel Hossa - both out with knee ligament injuries - and forward Brendan Shanahan, who's missed 12 games due to a concussion. Backup goaltender Kevin Weekes has been out since Feb. 13 with a strained quadriceps muscle and still is day-to-day.
Shanahan skated in practice Thursday, but there is no timetable for his return.
The Rangers are among five teams chasing the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots. New York has 76 points and is tied with Montreal for 10th. Toronto is in ninth place with 77 points, and Carolina and the New York Islanders are tied for the seventh with 78.
Southeast Division-leading Atlanta (37-25-10) also will try to bounce back from some recent struggles. The Thrashers were swept by the league-worst Flyers in their season series after a 3-2 defeat in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
"Riverboat gambling, that's all that was," forward Keith Tkachuk said of Atlanta's effort. "We gave up 3-on-2s in our own zone. That can't happen. This is playoff hockey."
Tkachuk continued his strong play since being acquired from St. Louis at last month's trading deadline. With a goal and assist against the Flyers, Tkachuk now has five goals and two assists in eight games with his new team.
Atlanta has gone 6-2-0 since picking up Tkachuk, a nine-time 30-goal scorer, and has a two-point lead in the division over Tampa Bay. The Thrashers and Lightning meet in the final game of the regular season on April 7.
Tkachuk, who needs six goals to reach 30 for the 10th time in his career, didn't face New York this season while playing for the Blues. He does have a three-game point streak against the Rangers with five goals - four on the power play - and four assists.