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Top 5 Reasons Why New York Rangers Can Still Make Playoffs

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Top 5 Reasons New York Rangers Can Still Make Playoffs

Adam Hunger - USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers legend Mark Messier recently made headlines by suggesting that his former team will have a monster second half of their season. This is a man that used to be on the inside of this organization as an adviser to General Manger Glen Sather before leaving following last season, so he knows the vast majority of the roster and their abilities. He also understands that the players are taking a lot of time to adjust to coach Alain Vigneault's system and are due for a breakout. Therefore, his theory just may be plausible.

On the other side, some believe that the Rangers' talent level is not sufficient enough to compete for a playoff spot, much less a Stanley Cup. The team is hovering at a .500 record and having such a poor homestand in December is a major red flag. On top of their struggles, they have also dealt with major injuries to key players. Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan have missed significant time, and no one knows when or if Marc Staal will return.

The one major factor the Rangers have going for them right now is that they are in a mediocre Metropolitan Division. They currently stand fifth in the division and two points out of a playoff spot. The key is to finish in the top-three in the division in the NHL's new playoff format, so there is plenty of time to reach that level and stay there. The Rangers should also consider themselves lucky they don't play in the Western Conference, otherwise they would be double-digits out of a playoff spot.

So is Mark Messier a prophet? Here's five reasons why he can be proven right.

Matt Stillwell is a New York Rangers contributor for rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattNYR12, "like" him on Facebook and connect with him on Google Plus for all NYR news and notes!

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5. Key Players Stay Healthy

Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

Rick Nash missed nearly a month and a half with a concussion, and captain Ryan Callahan has gone on the shelf twice. Marc Staal sustained another major concussion, and there is no timetable for his return. Once Callahan comes back from a sprained MCL, it is imperative he remain on the ice for the rest of the season. Ditto Nash, as both need to be the top-line forwards they are expected to be.

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4. Struggling Stars Perform at Elite Level

Joe Camporeale - USA TODAY Sports

Two key contributors to the Rangers' success in the last two seasons, Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan, have struggled this season. As much as the Rangers are counting on their brittle stars to contribute, they especially need healthy top-liners such as Girardi and Stepan to step up.

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3. A Major Trade is Made

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

We've all heard the rumors, and there have been many so far this season. But it is still up to Glen Sather to pull the trigger on a deal that will shake up this roster and improve it to the point that they potentially are a dangerous playoff team.

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2. Chris Kreider Continues to Grow As A Player

Adam Hunger - USA TODAY Sports

Chris Kreider has shown flashes of brilliance in his first full season, but the Rangers need him to become a more complete player and a dangerous first line threat.

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1. Henrik Lundqvist is Henrik Lundqvist Again

Adam Hunger - USA TODAY Sports

The obvious No. 1 reason why the Rangers will play in the postseason is because their most important player, Henrik Lundqvist, will shake off his struggles and play like the best goalie in the world again. The one hope for the Rangers is that it occurs before the Olympics.