Rangers’ playoff opponent still unknown with several teams still scrambling

With four games remaining, after Sunday night’s 5-2 win over the Canadiens, the Rangers’ first-round opponent in the playoffs is still very much up in the air.

Unlike last season, when the Blueshirts were slated to face the Devils for what felt like months, the standings have changed nearly every day as Eastern Conference clubs scramble for final postseason position.

The Rangers were slated for a Round 1 rematch with the Penguins on Sunday morning, but it switched to the Red Wings after Detroit’s win over the Sabres later in the day.

The Rangers still don't know their opponent for the first round of the NHL playoffs.
The Rangers still don’t know their opponent for the first round of the NHL playoffs. Jason Szenes for the NY Post

It’s all likely to change again over the next few weeks considering that there are several other teams still in the mix.

In addition to a Pittsburgh team that’s in the midst of a valiant push behind the stellar play of captain Sidney Crosby, and a Detroit team that’s looking to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2016, the Rangers could also face the Islanders, Flyers or Capitals.

The Lightning, also in the middle of an impressive stretch to finish the season, may have won enough recently to push themselves out of a potential first-round matchup with the Rangers.

Never say never, however, in the NHL.

Either way, the Rangers are on pace to secure home-ice advantage in the first round for the second time in the last three seasons.

The Rangers’ .730 point percentage at home entering Sunday’s game ranked third in the NHL.

They carried a 27-10-0 record at MSG into the game and have now won 13 of their last 16 home contests.

Zac Jones drew back into the lineup for the second time this month, after serving as a healthy scratch the previous two games.

He returned to his usual post on the left side of Braden Schneider on the bottom pairing.

As a result, Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch along with Chad Ruhwedel.

It’s the first time Gustafsson has served as a healthy scratch this season.

“Gus has been great all year,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the Rangers morning skate at MSG Training Center. “We’ll play Jones, get him a game. We’ll move on to the next one after that.”

Zac Jones was in the Rangers' lineup Sunday against the Canadiens.
Zac Jones was in the Rangers’ lineup Sunday against the Canadiens. Getty Images

Vincent Trocheck was voted the Steven McDonald Extra Effort award winner.

The honor, as decided by the fans, is given to the player who “goes above and beyond the call of duty.”


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