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Rangers can close in on sixth place Friday

Now the fun truly begins as 11 games remain in the New York Rangers’ 2010-11 bounce-back-to-NHL-relevancy campaign.  

Now the fun truly begins as 11 games remain in the New York Rangers’ 2010-11 bounce-back-to-NHL-relevancy campaign.

Coinciding with Buffalo’s 1-0 loss at HSBC Arena to Carolina and their 6-3 domination of the Islanders, the Rangers are in seventh in the East with 78 points — but trail sixth-seeded Montreal by five. The gap could be closed to three Friday night when the Original Six rivals meet at the Garden.

The Rangers are 0-3 against the Habs this season.

With the precious few games remaining in their season — and being chased in the Eastern Conference playoff race by the Sabres, Hurricanes, obscenely hot Devils, Leafs and Panthers — it is understood that there will not be the opportunity for John Tortorella to give vital players off-nights.

That is especially true for Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist was going to get the lion’s share of the games anyway, but once Martin Biron was lost for the season with a fractured collarbone in a Feb. 28 practice, it did not make sense to start AHL call-up Chad Johnson.

Not with where the Rangers were in the standings.

“If I play Johnny here in this situation, because I think Hank has gotten enough rest, I’m not sure if it’s going to happen. He has practiced well. It’s certainly not an ideal situation to put a guy in, where we’re at right now. But we have confidence in him. He’s practiced very well.”

Montreal goaltender Carey Price, of course, has had just as impressive a campaign as Lundqvist.

 
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