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Less than four weeks ago, the Winnipeg Jets were in the Eastern Conference basement and the New York Rangers were within a win of the top four. Now they're tied for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Consistency continues to elude the Rangers, who enter Thursday night looking to recover from a poor effort and avoid a second loss in as many meetings with a Jets team coming off possibly its best performance.
A 4-0-1 run had New York tied for sixth place in the East and two points back of fourth on Feb. 17. That night also saw Winnipeg lose its third straight and seventh in nine games to drop into a tie for last.
The Jets (13-11-2) have since turned things around, winning eight of 12 and going 3-0-1 in their last four. The Rangers (13-10-2), meanwhile, have had a four-game skid followed by a four-game winning streak before losing two of their last three.
Each team enters Thursday with 28 points.
"We have to get it straightened out," New York coach John Tortorella said.
The fiery Tortorella was particularly angry following Tuesday's 3-1 loss to a Buffalo team which had lost four straight and owns one of the league's worst records.
"I thought we stunk," he said. "I couldn't be more disgusted or disappointed with how our top guys played."
Though Derek Stepan scored for a second straight game, Rick Nash had a 10-game point streak snapped and Marian Gaborik went pointless. Gaborik, who had 41 goals last season and has eight in 2013, has scored one over the last 12 games.
Even Henrik Lundqvist had a bit of an off night, making 19 saves. New York fell to 2-7-0 when he allows more than two goals.
"We need to figure it out here fast," Lundqvist said.
His club is halfway through a four-game trip which could end in ugly fashion if it loses Thursday because the finale comes against division-leading Pittsburgh, which has won six straight versus New York and six in a row overall.
"We just have to keep moving forward," captain Ryan Callahan said. "We have two more big ones on the road here."
Callahan has a goal in three straight and seven of 10 versus Winnipeg, but the Rangers had a four-game win streak in the series snapped Feb. 26 as Olli Jokinen and Evander Kane each scored twice in the Jets' 4-3 victory at New York.
Though Jokinen has since gone pointless in seven contests, many teammates had breakout games Tuesday in a 5-2 home win over Toronto as the Jets matched a season high for goals and posted their most lopsided victory.
Nik Antropov had a season-high three points, including his first goal since Jan. 29. Dustin Byfuglien contributed three assists after a 14-game stretch during which he had four points. Kyle Wellwood notched his first multipoint effort after totaling three points through his first 19 games.
Kane scored for the second straight game as he, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler continue to produce, but getting others going like Antropov, Byfuglien and Wellwood - three of the team's top seven scorers last season - could be a major lift.
"I thought we had a lot of good games tonight from a lot of players," said coach Claude Noel, whose team has killed 25 straight penalties. "I thought guys played hard and weren't going to be denied."
The Rangers remain without defenseman Marc Staal, who has missed four games since getting hit in the eye with a puck.
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