Remind me to send the Atlanta Thrashers a big fruit basket. That is, so long as the Canes beat them tonight.

Eric Staal, seen here in an earlier game, has his playoff face on.
  • File photo by Peggy Boone
  • Eric Staal, seen here in an earlier game, has his playoff face on.

Tear up all of yesterday’s playoff scenarios and toss them in the trash. After the New York Rangers blew their penultimate game last night 3-0 to the Atlanta Thrashers, suddenly, shockingly, the Carolina Hurricanes control their own destiny.

If the Cardiac Canes win their remaining games—tonight in Atlanta and Saturday night against Tampa Bay in Raleigh—they will claim a playoff spot regardless of what other teams do. It’s not an easy task, but it is a certainty.

After Carolina lost to the Buffalo Sabres last Sunday, there was the sense that if players weren’t setting up tee times they were at least programming golf course clubhouses into their smartphones. Not that the Canes players had given up—Carolina turned right around and shut out the Red Wings on Wednesday—but that the dry-erase marker on the conference standings board in the locker room might as well have been exchanged for a Sharpie.

But there’s no quit in the Canes. They just needed the Rangers or Sabres to stumble, which New York has done.

Apparently Ryan Callahan was less replaceable for the Rangers than Ryan Miller was for the Sabres. The blueshirts’ second-leading scorer and heart-and-soul player is out indefinitely with a broken ankle after blocking a shot, and the Rangers seemed lifeless without him. Even King Henrik Lundqvist seemed diminished in net, allowing two goals in a 15-second span.

Buffalo, however, has served up Jhonas Enroth between the pipes for the dinged-up Miller. All he’s done is win games, including the overtime thriller in Raleigh last weekend that had vultures circling the RBC Center afterwards.

Now the vultures fly north, to Madison Square Garden. The Canes are back in the hunt.