Push for the Playoffs: Rangers in must-win mode

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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

The New York Rangers are right there.

Heading into tonight’s action against the Colorado Avalanche, the Rangers find themselves three points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference.

New York has a game in hand on on Columbus, but the Hurricanes have a game in hand on them. The really interesting thing about this battle is that the Rangers currently own the “regulation wins” tie-breaker by a significant margin (more on that later).

The Rangers’ late-season push has been driven by Mika Zibanejad, who hit the 40-goal mark in last night’s victory over the Dallas Stars. The 26-year-old has scored at least one goal in five consecutive games and he’s found the back of the net 10 times during that stretch.

“He continues to grow day in and day out,” head coach David Quinn said of Zibanejad, per NHL.com. “I said to him the day after his five-goal game (6-5 overtime win against the Washington Capitals last Thursday), ‘I’m really tired of talking about you, but if you keep scoring, I’ll talk about you until I’m blue in the face.'”

Quinn’s team will finish their four-game road trip in Arizona on Saturday night. They’ll head home to take on Calgary and Pittsburgh. They’ll follow that up by playing five of their next six on the road.

So the schedule isn’t exactly a walk in the (Central) park for them.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Bruins vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blues vs. Canucks
Golden Knights vs. Predators
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Sharks vs. Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET
Jets vs. Oilers, 9 p.m. ET
Blues vs. Ducks, 10 p.m. ET
Rangers vs. Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Bruins – 100 percent
Lightning – 100 percent
Capitals – 100 percent
Flyers – 99.6 percent
Penguins – 95.3 percent
Hurricanes – 78.1 percent
Maple Leafs – 77.1 percent
Islanders – 57.2 percent
Panthers – 37.4 percent
Blue Jackets – 33.6 percent
Rangers – 21.7 percent
Canadiens – 0 percent
Sabres – 0 percent
Senators – 0 percent
Red Wings- 0 percent
Devils – 0 percent

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES
Avalanche – 100 percent
Blues – 100 percent
Golden Knights – 98.6 percent
Stars – 96.1 percent
Oilers – 95.5 percent
Canucks – 69.1 percent
Flames – 63.3 percent
Predators – 56.8 percent
Wild – 52.1 percent
Jets – 50.7 percent
Coyotes – 15.5 percent
Blackhawks – 2.3 percent
Ducks – 0 percent
Sharks – 0 percent
Kings – 0 percent

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Detroit Red Wings — 18.5 percent
Ottawa Senators  — 13.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 11.5 percent
Ottawa Senators* — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 7.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 6.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 6 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 5 percent
New Jersey Devils** — 3.5 percent
Winnipeg Jets  — 3 percent
Minnesota Wild — 2.5 percent
Florida Panthers — 2 percent
New York Rangers 1.5 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 110 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 96 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 95 points
Artemi, Panarin, Rangers – 94 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 93 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 48 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 48 goals
Auston Mattews, Maple Leafs – 47 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Mika Zibanejad, Rangers – 40 goals

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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