The New York Rangers can move into a tie for second place in points in the Metropolitan Division on Monday when they host the Buffalo Sabres.
The Rangers (47-21-12, 106 points) are two points behind the New Jersey Devils after a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. New York and New Jersey each have two games remaining on their respective schedules.
“Obviously we want to get ready for the playoffs and try to create good habits,” center Mika Zibanejad said. “But, also, winning keeps the mood up and that’s what we want to keep doing the next two games here, and try to get ourselves ready for the playoffs.”
New York is 3-0-2 in its past five games, a stretch that began with a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo on March 31. The Rangers are 12-2-3 in their past 17 games, with the only two regulation losses coming against the Devils and Carolina Hurricanes.
“I think we played pretty well (against Columbus). I think there’s another level that we’re going to get to come next week,” forward Barclay Goodrow said. “It’s an exciting time. We kind of knew where we’re going to finish for a while now so I think it’s exciting to play these last two games and get into the playoffs. We’re all looking forward to that.”
Zibanejad notched a pair of assists against the Blue Jackets. His 50 assists are two shy of his career best, set last season. His 89 points are tied for the team lead with Artemi Panarin.
The Sabres (39-32-7, 85 points), meanwhile, hope their faint playoff hopes will still be alive when the night is over. Buffalo is 6-1-1 in its past eight games but hasn’t been able to gain much ground in the race for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference as the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins have all kept winning.
The Sabres remain six points behind the Panthers and Islanders, who currently hold the first and second wild-card spots, respectively. Buffalo, however, holds two games in hand on each team.
The Sabres recorded a 4-3 triumph against the Hurricanes on Saturday, a game in which they rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits.
“It shows our character right now,” defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said. “We’re not out of it. We’ve just got to keep battling. It’s next game, next game. So how hard we battled to the end, it just shows that we really want it and we’ve got to do everything we can.”
Casey Mittelstadt has been filling in as first-line center while Tage Thompson plays through an upper-body ailment. Mittelstadt has delivered in between Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch, amassing 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in his past seven games. He has multi-point efforts in four of his past five games, including two goals against Carolina.
“I think it helps that they play really well together. It makes it easier for me,” Mittelstadt said. “They know how to play with each other and obviously, they both can score, and I like to pass. They’ve been putting the puck away for me and obviously, (Saturday) they returned the favor a bit, which was nice.”