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After a pair of disappointing losses, a visit from a woeful Columbus team might be just what the New York Rangers need to get their playoff push back on track.
The Rangers continue their longest homestand of the season Saturday when they host the stumbling Blue Jackets.
New York (29-26-6) lost 3-2 in a shootout to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday in the opener of a crucial six-game homestand. The Rangers, who also lost 2-1 at New Jersey on Tuesday, are five points behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers had won four of five before the home-and-home sweep against the Devils.
"We have been really close to getting the points," goalie Henrik Lundqvist told the Rangers' official Web site. "We just have to keep working. The one good thing is that we have a lot of home games coming up.
"We did a lot of good things tonight. We will regroup tomorrow and come back on Saturday."
New York remains without veteran left wing Brendan Shanahan, who has missed three games since suffering a concussion in a collision with Philadelphia's Mike Knuble. Shanahan, who leads the Rangers with 28 goals, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
However, defenseman Marek Malik returned Thursday after missing two games with a shoulder injury and picked up an assist.
"We have to win. There is no second-guessing, there is no staying down. We have to treat every game like a playoff series game," center Matt Cullen told the team's site. "We will take the point, and we have to come out of the next one with two. We just have to keep building. Hopefully, we gain some ground."
On Saturday, the Rangers will be up against a Columbus (23-32-6) club that owns the third-fewest points in the NHL. The Blue Jackets have dropped three straight, including Thursday's 4-0 loss at home to Edmonton.
The Blue Jackets, who suffered their franchise-record 13th shutout defeat of the season, gave up two power-play goals and have allowed seven man-advantage scores in 22 opportunities during their current losing streak.
"We had a lot of guys whose performance was well below the bar," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think there's a focus somewhere else for some people and it showed today."
Columbus, which plays four of its next five games away from home, has lost its last three road games while allowing at least five goals in each of them. The Blue Jackets have won four of their last five meetings with the Rangers overall, but are 0-1 with one tie all-time at Madison Square Garden, where they have not played since a 5-3 loss Dec. 3, 2002.
The Blue Jackets traded former Rangers right wing Anson Carter to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday for a 2008 draft pick. Carter, who has 10 goals and 17 assists, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.