A year ago, the New York Rangers failed to reach the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. They can avoid a similar fate this week.
Playing their final three games of the regular season at Madison Square Garden should provide an advantage.
The Rangers look to move closer to a playoff berth Monday night when they host the Boston Bruins in a potential opening-round preview.
New York (42-32-5) is seeking to return to the playoffs after failing to qualify on the last day of the 2009-10 season, falling in a shootout at Philadelphia.
With a win Monday, the Rangers could clinch a playoff spot against Atlanta on Thursday. Otherwise, the playoff chase could come down to Saturday's regular-season finale versus New Jersey. The Devils and Thrashers are both out of contention.
New York is eighth in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of ninth-place Carolina, but just one behind Buffalo for seventh and two back of sixth-place Montreal.
The Rangers could end up facing Boston (44-23-11) in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins have already clinched the Northeast Division title and are four points behind Philadelphia and Washington for the top two seeds, with a game in hand on both of those teams
"Our main focus is to get as many points as possible, play well late, and focus on playing our game," New York left wing Wojtek Wolski said.
Wolski gave the Rangers' playoff hopes a major boost Sunday, scoring on the decisive shootout attempt in a 3-2 road victory over the Flyers. Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves through overtime before stopping both of Philadelphia's shooters in the tiebreaker.
"A small flashback," Lundqvist said, referring to the season-ending shootout loss at Philadelphia last April. "I really learned from last year to stay in the moment, not think about the consequences. Last year, I thought if I didn't make the save, we were out. Now, it's just make the save and deal with the consequences later."
Lundqvist, who will likely make his 24th start in a row, is 9-3-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average and three shutouts over his last 13 as he continues to build a case for his first Vezina Trophy. He's 4-0-1 with a 1.38 GAA at Madison Square Garden during his hot streak.
Lundqvist, who has a league-leading 11 shutouts, is 15-5-2 with a 1.43 GAA in 22 games versus the Bruins. His five shutouts versus Boston tie his output against Florida and New Jersey for his most against any opponent.
He blanked the Bruins again March 26, making 26 stops in a 1-0 road win.
Partially thanks to Lundqvist, the Rangers have won 11 of their last 14 home meetings with Boston. However, they dropped the most recent matchup at MSG, 3-2 on Nov. 17.
The Bruins improved to 5-1-1 in their last seven games overall after beating Atlanta 3-2 on Saturday. Michael Ryder scored on a penalty shot midway through the third period to clinch Boston's second division title in three seasons.
"It's what a lot of teams battle for," coach Claude Julien said. "I'm just glad that's out of the way. We've got to keep winning games and see where we end up."
Milan Lucic, Boston's leader with 30 goals, has found the net just once in his last 12 games, but has nine assists in that span. The left wing has one goal and three assists in 13 meetings with the Rangers, with the goal coming in the Bruins' last visit to MSG.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.