As they find themselves on ever shakier ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Rangers hope that they will be able to firm up their lineup Thursday night at the Garden when they face the Minnesota Wild for the first game in a stretch of three in four nights.

All-Star defenseman Marc Staal, out the last three games with a sore knee, participated fully in Wednesday's practice in Greenburgh, as did winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who has missed two in a row since tweaking the shoulder he hurt in January.

"I'm hopeful," said Staal, who plans to test his knee Thursday morning before deciding on his status for the game. "But I'm not going to say yes."

The Rangers can use all the help they can get right now, having lost 10 of their last 14 games, including Tuesday's 3-2 home defeat to Buffalo that allowed the ninth-place Sabres to get within three points of the Blueshirts, with three games in hand. Thursday night, Buffalo visits Carolina, where the Hurricanes stand one point behind the Rangers, having played one fewer game.