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NHL Prediction: New York Rangers vs Carolina Hurricanes (3/1/12)

This is the third meeting of four this season. The Rangers are 2-0 against the Hurricanes. Motivation might be tough to find down the stretch for these teams, but for different reasons.

The Rangers are atop the East, nine points clear of second place Boston. The Hurricanes are in 13th, eight points behind eighth place Washington. Both teams are playing well in their last 10 games, so keeping that momentum going through March will be important if the Rangers’ want to hang on to the top seed and the Hurricanes want to make a late push and at the very least finish strong.

This game kicks off a grueling stretch of 17 in 30 days for the Rangers, but they closed February on a strong note, beating the Devils 2-0 on Tuesday night. It was the first game after the trade deadline, one that was believed to feature Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets coming to New York. Which I will never understand on why hockey “fans” thought the Rangers would blow up the team, when it’s not needed.   Instead, the Rangers basically stood pat, acquiring defensive forward John Scott from the Blackhawks as their only move. The locker room stayed intact, and that meant a lot to the East leading Rangers.

Carolina finished February 6-1-4, picking up 16 of a possible 22 points to climb a bit in the East. The Hurricanes continued to keep their faint hopes alive with a 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, and coach Kirk Muller is happy with his team’s effort in the face of so many injuries.

Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last two games.

Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has points in nine straight games, 7 goals and 9 assists.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan (foot) is listed as day-to-day.

LaRose (upper body) is day-to-day for Carolina. Ruutu (upper body), Pitkanen (concussion) and goalie Brian Boucher (lower body) are out.

Should the Rangers leave RBC Center with a win, they will be the first team to earn 20 wins at home and 20 wins on the road this season.

STARTING GOALIES:

New York Rangers – Martin Biron

Carolina Hurricanes – Cam Ward

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