For the first time, all six final round games in the league will kick off at same time - the permutations for the play-offs are many and varied, with only Munster certain of a home semi-final over the weekend of May 13 and 14.
Ulster have a strong squad at their disposal for the trip across the Irish Sea. The panel includes Springbok star Ruan Pienaar, who was named in the Magners League Dream Team earlier this week.
Ireland internationals Stephen Ferris (knee), Paddy Wallace (thumb), and Andrew Trimble (thumb) remain unavailable for selection due to injury, as does BJ Botha (knee).
There is also a doubt over flanker Willie Faloon. He looks set to miss out after damaging a shoulder when he slipped in training last Friday.
A losing bonus point would be enough to seal Ulster's progress into the last four, but McLaughlin admitted: "That's something we haven't even mentioned.
"The only thing for us to do on Friday night is to go, be positive and be confident knowing that we can play and win the game. That's what we're looking to do."
The Ulster team and replacements for the round 22 clash will be announced on Thursday afternoon.
ULSTER Squad (v Newport Gwent Dragons) - Backs (14): Ruan Pienaar, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Paddy Jackson, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave, Mark McCrea, Simon Danielli, Tommy Seymour, Craig Gilroy, Conor Gaston, Jamie Smith, Adam D'Arcy.
Forwards (17): Jerry Cronin, Tom Court, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, Declan Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Nigel Brady, Andi Kyriacou, Dan Tuohy, Johann Muller, Neil McComb, Tim Barker, Pedrie Wannenburg, Thomas Anderson, Willie Faloon, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.