Once again the New York Rangers find themselves battling for a playoff spot with time running out.  And, much like last year, they could lose their spot in their final game.  The 2009-2010 New York Rangers famously missed the playoffs after they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the final game of the regular season.  Now that the Rangers lost to Atlanta last night, whether or not they make the playoffs could very well come down to the one game remaining on their schedule.

The team that is hot on the Rangers’ heels is the Carolina Hurricanes.  The Canes have two games remaining and they’re two points behind New York.  If Carolina defeats Atlanta tonight and Tampa Bay tomorrow, they’ll be in the playoffs regardless of what New York does.

Right now both teams have 34 wins, excluding shootout. If Carolina wins one of their two games remaining outside of the shootout and New York loses to New Jersey tomorrow in regulation, Carolina will qualify as they will have at least equal points and one additional non-shootout win.

If Carolina loses one of their two games and wins the other in a shootout and the Rangers lose to New Jersey in regulation, Carolina would still make it as they collected six points against the Rangers this season, while the Rangers picked up only four against the Hurricanes.  The fact that both of the Rangers’ victories against Carolina came in overtime or the shootout could be the death knell for the Blueshirts.

The Rangers can make the playoffs if they defeat New Jersey tomorrow and Carolina loses at least one game this weekend.  If the Hurricanes lose both games, the Rangers are in regardless.  These very confusing scenarios are summed up on the Hurricanes’ website.  Thanks to Puck Daddy for bringing this to our attention.

Essentially what it comes down to is that the Rangers cannot make the playoffs on entirely their own effort any longer.  They’ll have to worry about what Carolina does.  The Hurricanes control their own fate.  Win out and they’re in.

The recent play of both teams is what’s brought us to this point.  The Hurricanes have won four of  their last five and seven of their last ten.  The Rangers, on the other hand, have won two of their last five and six of their last ten.  When you’re sitting in eighth place, an extra loss here and there means a great deal.

Of course, in addition to asking about the Rangers’ playoff fate, another question we must ask is if John Tortorella will use Marian Gaborik if the Rangers end up in another deciding shootout.  Olli Jokinen is in Calgary now.