NHL Playoff Picture: Rangers, Sens look to clinch Eastern playoff spots

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Rick Nash and the Rangers can punch their ticket in vs. Carolina. (Getty Images) Rick Nash and the Rangers will punch their ticket to the postseason with a win against Carolina. (Getty Images)

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The New York Rangers will hope that going for a spot twice will be nice.

The Blueshirts were pretty much given a layup, a free pass into the playoffs on Tuesday. All they had to do was beat the Florida Panthers and they were in. Considering the Panthers had 10 regulation wins all season up to that point, it should have been a breeze.

Oops.

What would this Rangers season be without just a little more unease as the playoffs approach? That's how it's been all along, the Rangers not quite meeting the expectations.

Now they will try a second time to get the job done, this time against the Carolina Hurricanes, another team that should be of little concern to the Rangers right now.

The goal is simple; win the game and they are in. Lose in regulation or overtime and they have to await the Jets game to see if they need to sweat the final day or not.

Is it the sign of a disappointing campaign that the Rangers are still battling for a playoff spot with two games to go? Based on the expectations this team had, yes, it probably is. But that gets wiped away should the get into the postseason, at least a little bit. Nothing maginifies disappointment more than missing the playoffs.

Some think that if the Rangers get in they could be a very dangerous low seed. You look at the roster and still see that tantalizing talent and think they could turn it on at any time. I wouldn't expect that but certainly there is the potential so for now the mantra just has to be get in and see what happens.

Oh, and as a bonus: Don't forget that the Hurricanes recalled Jared Staal so they will have Jordan, Eric and Jared available. Hopefully at some point they are a whole line together.

Other clinching/elimination scenarios

The Ottawa Senators will grab their playoff spot with two points against the Washington Capitals or simply if Winnipeg loses in regulation to Montreal. The other option is to get in with an overtime loss and a Jets overtime loss. Anything that keeps them a point ahead of Winnipeg will do.

The Minnesota Wild will clinch their playoff even though they're idle if the Columbus Blue Jackets lose in regulation.

The Detroit Red Wings can clinch a berth if they win and the Blue Jackets lose in any fashion. The Red Wings will also be in if they lose in overtime the Blue Jackets lose in regulation.

As a result, the Blue Jackets will be eliminated if they lose in regulation.

The Dallas Stars will be eliminated if they fail to pick up two points against Columbus or if Detroit picks up one point vs. Nashville.

The Winnipeg Jets will be finished if they fail to get two points or if the Rangers and Senators both win.

Key games

Ottawa at Washington, 7 ET: The Capitals have done their clinching and are locked in with the three seed but the Sens still have a little work left to do. They can wrap up their berth vs. the Caps and they might get Erik Karlsson back. It could be a big night.

NY Islanders at Philadelphia, 7 ET: Who would have thought that this game mattered only for the Isles? They are still in play for the five seed, just one point behind Toronto.

Nashville at Detroit: The Red Wings are back in position now they just have to hold onto it. At this point they would love to be able to grab the seven seed and avoid Chicago but they need help from Minnesota. Beggars can't be choosers, just want to get in.

Toronto at Florida, 7:30 ET: The Maple Leafs let a chance get away Wednesday night in Tampa Bay, but they can still grab the four seed should Montreal lose to Winnipeg and Toronto wins this one and the finale against the Habs.

Tampa Bay at Boston, 7:30 ET: The Bruins certainly don't have the second seed pinned down yet and they would like to get some momentum going before the playoffs begin.

Calgary at St. Louis, 8 ET: With recent losses by the Kings and Sharks, the Blues actually have the inside track to the four seed now. Win the last two and it is theirs.

Montreal at Winnipeg, 8 ET: Winnipeg is in desperation mode. The Habs are in sky-is-falling mode. This is actually the Jets' last game so they have to hope for a win and see if it can hold vs. the Senators or Rangers. The Habs are trying to hang onto fourth or maybe even taken second.

Columbus at Dallas, 8:30 ET: This is it for the Stars, elimination time. They face Columbus and Detroit in the last two, and they are the last two teams they are chasing. Columbus, now on an even playing field with Detroit in terms of games, is one point back, two behind Minnesota. They have no choice but to win the last two and hope.

 
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