ColoradoAvalanche.com web staff contributed to this report.
RANGERS (43-30-4) at AVALANCHE (48-21-6)
TV: Altitude, MSG
Last 10: New York 8-2-0; Colorado 6-3-1
Season series: The Rangers and Avalanche meet for the second and final time. Ryan Callahan, who has since been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, had two goals and an assist in the first meeting Feb. 4, which the Rangers won 5-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Big story: Colorado is already assured a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Rangers are on the verge of clinching a postseason berth. The biggest stakes in this one is the carrot of home-ice advantage, which is within both team's reach. The Avs complete their regular-season home schedule with Thursday's game and Sunday's against Pittsburgh (6 p.m. MT), with a quick one-game trip to St. Louis scheduled for Saturday (noon MT).
Colorado is 10-3-0 in its last 13 games versus the Broadway Blueshirts and 13-4-0 in the last 17 meetings.
Rangers: New York got a key road win Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The 3-1 victory gave coach Alain Vigneault his second win against the team he coached for seven seasons, and forward Martin St. Louis scored his first goal since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 5. The shorthanded goal came off a fine cross-ice pass from Rick Nash.
The win moved the Rangers one step closer to clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it came at a price. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh's breakout season came to a momentary halt when he sustained an upper-body injury following a late-game hit from Alexandre Burrows. The Rangers classified the injury as "not serious," and McDonagh stayed with the team rather than go back to New York. John Moore appears close to returning from a concussion and could fill McDonagh's slot in the lineup in the finale of a four-game trip.
New York remains three points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for second in the Metropolitan Division, but the Flyers hold two games in hand. Both teams appear likely to meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Avalanche: Colorado is struggling with a major injury of its own: leading scorer Matt Duchene is expected to be out for approximately four weeks with a lower-body injury sustained on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. Nathan MacKinnon got the nod from Colorado coach Patrick Roy to take Duchene's place on the team's top line, and he got a bit of a slow start against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday in Columbus.
The rookie flourished after being moved to a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny, though, setting up Landeskog's tying goal late in the third period and assisting Landeskog's power-play winner in overtime, giving Colorado its fourth straight win.
"They played so well together--I thought with Landy and Pauly they were more dangerous," coach Patrick Roy said. "He brings so much speed with Landy on that line."
Colorado sits three points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for second in the Central Division with a game in hand. Like the Rangers and Flyers in the Metropolitan, Colorado's first-round matchup against the Blackhawks appears set.
Who's hot: Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has four points in his past two games, and Benoit Pouliot has three points on his current three-game point streak. … Landeskog has five goals and two assists and Stastny has five points during matching four-game scoring streaks. MacKinnon has four points (all assists) in his past four games.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in goal and is 23-9-3 at home this season, and his 38 wins overall lead the NHL. He can tie Roy's franchise record for most home wins in a single season with a victory against the Rangers and move within one of Roy's franchise-record single-season mark set in 2000-01.
Injury report: McDonagh is unlikely to play for the Rangers, and forward Chris Kreider (hand) is out. … Duchene is out and forward PA Parenteau, who skated before Avalanche practice Monday, is working his way back from a knee injury. Forward Alex Tanguay (hip) is done for the season.
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