Colorado Avalanche vs. New York Rangers - 4/3/14
New York Rangers (43-30-4) at Colorado Avalanche (48-21-6)
NHL Hockey: Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 9:00 pm (Pepsi Center)
The Line: Colorado Avalanche -116 / New York Rangers +105 --- Over/Under: 5 See the Latest Odds
The New York Rangers are right on the verge of clinching a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference but after Monday night's game in Vancouver there are greater concerns. With under a minute remaining in regulation star defenseman Ryan McDonagh was hit from behind by the Canucks' Alexandre Burrows. McDonagh was slow to get up and after the game was seen exiting the building with his arm in a sling. Early indications from the Rangers are that it isn't a serious injury, but with just six games remaining in their season any injury to their best player is troublesome. If there's any concern at all about his healthy New York should consider sitting McDonagh the rest of the way until the playoffs. Philadelphia is the likely opponent in the first round and the Rangers aren't going to be able to get by without McDonagh in the lineup. Tuesday night the Rangers jumped in front early on a goal from fourth liner Dan Carcillo and then doubled their lead with a power play goal by Benoit Pouliot. It was an encouraging sign for a club that has struggled mightily on the power play recently. The Vancouver Canucks had surges at times but Henrik Lundqvist was on his game and shut the door at almos every turn. Vancouver did get a goal from Ryan Kesler in the second period to cut the lead in half, but Lundqvist never allowed them to get the equalizer. In the third period the Rangers got a big lift when Martin St. Louis scored his first goal since coming over from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline. It was New York's seventh shorthanded goal in the last 15 games and came off a two-on-one feed from Rick Nash. The 3-1 win elevated the Rangers to 90 points, three ahead of Philadelphia in the Metropolitan division.
For the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night it was perhaps one of the strangest games of the season. The Avalanche didn't play very well in this one, trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 heading into the third period. Colorado wasn't giving up too much defensively but the Blue Jackets cashed in on their chances in the second period against Semyon Varlamov. But in the third period lady luck decided to play chime in on this game and it led to a big time comeback for the Avalanche. Brad Malone and Gabriel Landeskog both scored goals that deflected in off Blue Jackets defenseman, and in overtime it was Landeskog with the Avalanche on the power play again finding a way to bank one in past Sergei Bobrovsky to lift Coloado to a 3-2 win. It wasn't the prettiest win of the year for this club but for the fourth consecutive game the Avalanche just found a way to win. It's something they've been doing all season long and it's a big reason why no one should count them out in a first round series with the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. There is plenty of talent in this lineup offensively to match up with Chicago, especially if the injuries persist for the Blackhawks, and Varlamov has shown at times that he can carry this team on his back. Currently the Avalanche have a three point lead over the Blackhawks in the race for home ice advantage, which could prove to be a big factor in a potential match up.
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This should be a good game on Thursday night between two clubs that are playing some really great hockey right now. The Avalanche have won four straight games while New York comes to town winners of six of their last seven. The Rangers can clinch a playoff spot with a little help on Thursday night but this is going to be a tough game to not have McDonagh in the lineup. In the end, Colorado's offense might be too much in this one.