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Rangers eye clincher against Flyers

By Nicolino DiBenedetto

Stats Writer

Philadelphia (43-25-11) at NY Rangers (41-30-9), 7:00 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Earlier this week, the New York Rangers got

help from the Philadelphia Flyers to put them on the brink of

clinching a playoff spot.

On Thursday night, they'll try to beat their Atlantic Division

rivals at Madison Square Garden to secure their fourth

consecutive trip to the postseason.

The Rangers (41-30-9) hold the eighth and final playoff spot in

the Eastern Conference. They're two points ahead of Florida,

which visits Atlanta on Thursday before ending its regular

season against Washington on Saturday.

New York, which also trails seventh-place Montreal by one point,

can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Flyers

(43-25-11) in either of their remaining two matchups. The teams

close out the regular season at the Wachovia Center on Sunday.

The Rangers' playoff hopes received a huge boost Tuesday, as

they beat the Canadiens 3-1 while Philadelphia earned a spot in

the postseason with a 2-1 win over the Panthers.

"We are going to go for it Thursday," said Rangers goaltender

Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 stops. "It is a big game again. We

have a great opportunity to play great now and go into the

playoffs feeling really good.

"We're probably not going to focus on clinching. We're just

going to focus on playing a really good game and win."

The Rangers won the last matchup with the Flyers 4-1 at MSG on

March 15, gaining a split of the season series. That victory is

also part of New York's stretch of seven wins in eight home

games.

Lundqvist has been key in that span, making every start with a

1.51 goals-against average. He made 24 saves to beat the Flyers

on March 15, a night after he had 29 stops and lost 4-2 at

Philadelphia.

The All-Star netminder is 1-3-1 with a 4.18 GAA in his last six

starts - getting pulled in two of them - against the Flyers.

The Rangers hope Nik Antropov can continue shaking off a knee

injury after he scored a diving goal Tuesday. The right wing has

seven goals and five assists in 16 games since being acquired

from Toronto on March 4.

Antropov has three goals and two assists in his last four games

against the Flyers, including a goal in each of the last two

meetings as a member of the Rangers.

Philadelphia, which visits the NHL-worst New York Islanders on

Saturday, is looking to keep its outside chances at an Atlantic

Division title alive. The team trails first-place New Jersey by

five points, while holding a game in hand. The Devils visit

Ottawa on Thursday before facing Carolina on Saturday.

The Flyers have also played one fewer game than the Hurricanes,

who are tied with them for fourth in the East.

"Obviously it's nice to get into the playoffs, but we still have

a lot of work to do to get home-ice advantage," center Jeff

Carter said after scoring against the Panthers.

Carter has four goals in the last three games to become the 20th

player in Flyers' history to score 45 and the first since Simon

Gagne had 47 in 2005-06.

Carter, however, hasn't found the back of the net in the last

six games against the Rangers and has only four goals in 27

career meetings.

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