More or less solid in their playoff positioning, the New York Rangers, 1-2-2 in their past five, would like to get some momentum going with eight games left in the regular season.
Some time in the sun and away from Madison Square Garden may be just what they need, as they start a three game California swing tonight against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center (10:30 PM, MSG+).
The Rangers (45-25-4) might be very happy to return to the road, where they’re 26-9-1 this year. They had an opportunity to end a six game winless streak (0-4-2) at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, but fell to the New York Islanders 3-2. Mats Zuccarello had a power play goal, while Rick Nash added another, each scored in the second period. With the loss, the Rangers’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot (points gained by the Rangers and lost by Islanders and Boston Bruins) remained at 7, though it can be as low as five entering the game, as the Islanders and Bruins play each other tonight.
Meanwhile, the Kings (35-31-7) are fighting for their playoff lives, currently eight points behind Nashville with nine games remaining for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. They helped their hopes with a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. Trailing 2-1 after the first period, Jake Muzzin tied it in the second, while a trio of goals by Marian Gaborik, Drew Doughty and Tanner Pearson helped put the game away in the third.
This will be the second and final meeting between the Rangers and Kings this season, the MSG matchup coming all the way back on January 23, a 3-2 Rangers win. Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel and Mats Zuccarello had the Ranger goals, while Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to make his return from a hip injury tomorrow night in Anaheim, made 36 saves.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490