Game Preview: Rangers at Hurricanes, 4-25-13

Jared Staal, the youngest of the four Staal brothers, will make his NHL debut Thursday and play alongside brothers Eric and Jordan with the Hurricanes. - Jamie Kellner

The Carolina Hurricanes close out their home schedule Thursday, hosting the New York Rangers at PNC Arena. The Canes, already eliminated from postseason contention, will be looking to derail the Blueshirts in their effort to clinch a playoff spot.

Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Rangers

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 7 pm ET

PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas HD --- Radio 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Islanders Blog: Blueshirt Banter (twitter @BlueshirtBanter)

Hurricanes Record: 19-24-3 (41 pts., 13th in the Eastern Conference)
Islanders Record: 24-14-4 (52 pts., eighth place in Eastern Conference)

For the New York Rangers, Thursday's game in Raleigh is a chance to clinch one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. It's been a disappointing season for the Rangers, who were considered one of the Stanley Cup favorites entering the season after adding Rick Nash to an already potent lineup. But a postseason berth would give them the opportunity to make amends on a difficult campaign.

If there's a team this year that truly knows disappointment, though, it's the Hurricanes. After a fast start that saw them jump to the top of the Southeast Division, the Canes faltered and will miss the postseason for the fourth straight season. The Hurricanes have taken to getting a closer look at some of their minor league players, and the latest is arguably the most interesting of all: Jared Staal.

The youngest of the four Staal brothers will make his NHL debut in Carolina's home finale, playing on a line with Jordan and on the same bench as oldest brother Eric. Marc, a defenseman for New York, is still out due to injury but has traveled to Raleigh with the Rangers.

The Hurricanes will be without Alexander Semin, who is out with a concussion according to head coach Kirk Muller and will not play in Carolina's final two games. Semin has been a big part of Carolina's last two wins — the first consecutive victories for the team in six weeks — so the Canes will need help from their secondary scoring to fill the void.

With Semin out, Carolina will again dress seven defensemen. Dan Ellis, who has won the Canes' last to games in net, will likely make his third consecutive start. The Rangers will go with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has owned the Hurricanes this season, going 2-0 with 77 saves on 79 shots in two wins. It will also be Ellis' third start in the season series — he stopped 35 of 36 in a shootout loss on March 18, and he was pulled after allowing three goals in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on April 6. Derek Stepan has three points in two games vs. the Hurricanes this season, including a goal in each game.

The Rangers hold a one point lead over Winnipeg for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot, but since the Jets only have one game remaining New York can punch its postseason ticket with two points.

For more from the Rangers perspective, check out Blueshirt Banter.

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