There are two spots that have been unchanged for some time now in the Eastern Conference standings posted in the Canes' locker room: the New York Rangers have been in seventh place and the Canes eighth.
Tonight, the Canes have a chance to change that. A victory over the Rangers at the RBC Center would leave both teams with 66 points, and the Canes would have a game in hand.
"You look forward to these games and enjoy them and the pressure that comes with them," Canes coach Paul Maurice said after today's morning skate. "It makes the games more exciting this time of year. This time of year you have to come to the rink wanting to be in them."
The Canes come into the game with a surplus of players. Ryan Carter and Derek Joslin will be scratched tonight, Maurice said. Joni Pitkanen, after missing the Devils game Saturday, is back in the lineup and the Canes will keep Jerome Samson in the lineup.
The Rangers, 2-7-1 in their last 10, will be without winger Marian Gaborik (post-concussion symptoms) tonight.
"You can't lose your strut," Rangers coach John Tortorella said today. "We've been through this before at certain points of the season. We not so much struggling as a team but we are struggling with results. We've got to get the results."
Tortorella said Gaborik will see a doctor again today for further evaluation. Gaborik left Sunday's game against the Flyers after the first period.
The Rangers say they are not sure when and how he suffered a concussion. He had complained for a week of not feeling well but continued to play, and Tortorella said today it was first believed Gaborik might have the flu.
"He played against L.A. (Kings) and (New) Jersey and said he felt fine. After the first period against Philly he said he was having problems concentrating," Tortorella said.
The Canes have two wins over the Rangers this season — 4-3 in New York (Oct. 29) and 4-1 at the RBC Center (Jan. 20) -- and a 2-1 overtime loss at Madison Square Garden (Jan. 5).
"I think the last game we got 'em in here it was a back-to-back (for the Rangers) and an advantage for us," Maurice said. "The two games we played up in New York, the first game the goaltending was good as I've seen at both ends, there wasn't a whole lot of defense played.
"They've been exciting, physical. I think we'll see that again tonight."