Game Thread: Rangers at Flames

Having dropped their first two contests of this late-season Western Conference swing to the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks — both of whom the Rangers are battling for draft position with — the Blueshirts will skate in a penultimate matchup tonight in the first night of back-to-backs.

Tomorrow, the Wild. Tonight, it’s the Calgary Flames.

Losers of two straight and eight of their last 10 games, the Rangers’ season has taken on a new context with just a dozen games left to play. Though they’re not yet mathematically eliminated from contention, a 12-point spread separates them from the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, inarguably shifting the focus of the team to the growth of their future, even as it’s prefaced by the failures of today.

A loss tonight, particularly one in which they’re metaphorically burned, would be rather poetic given who their opponents are. It would also stand in stark contrast to to last year’s late-season Western road trip in which the team picked up three wins in three games against the same trio of clubs from February 28 to March 3.

The Flames, who sit second in the Pacific Division with 93 points, are 22-7-5 on home ice this year, and are coming off a dominating 9-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. It was the second time this season they’ve put up nine goals in a single game.

Calgary have also out-scored their opponents by a 15-7 margin over their last two games, and have won two straight games after dropping four in a row through the first week of March. Their plus-47 goal differential is also second in the NHL this season, dwarfing the Rangers’ own minus-32, which is good for 26th.

Johnny Gaudreau has been the club’s hottest player of late, scoring a hat trick — his fifth in his career — against the Devils. He has 11 points in his last 10 games, though six (three goals, three assists) came against New Jersey.

Please use this as your open thread for tonight’s game.