An ideal way for the New York Rangers to build some momentum heading into a matchup with the hottest team in the Eastern Conference would be to continue their recent success over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Rangers look to sweep the season series and defeat the Hurricanes for a fifth consecutive time Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
With 93 points, New York (43-18-7) still leads the Atlantic Division and the conference. However, the hard charging Pittsburgh Penguins have won nine in a row to move within four points of the Rangers. Those teams meet Thursday at MSG, but first the Rangers must focus on Carolina following a 4-3 overtime win over the rival Islanders on Sunday.
Brad Richards had two goals with an assist and Marian Gaborik had one of each, including the winning tally in the final seconds of overtime to help New York snap a three game skid.
That’s why it is important that the Rangers don’t get caught looking past Carolina (26-28-15) to the matchup with Pittsburgh. New York has outscored the Hurricanes 13-6 while winning all three meetings this season, including a 5-1 victory at MSG on Nov. 11.
Gaborik has two goals and two assists in his last two games against the Hurricanes, while Richards has a goal and two assists versus Carolina this season. Richards, whose first goal Sunday gave him 20 for the ninth time in his 11-year career, has three goals in his last two games, equaling his total from his previous 27 contests.
Both of Richards’ goals Sunday came on the power play, where the Rangers went 3 of 6 after going 3 for 35 with the man advantage over their previous 12 games.
The Rangers may once again need to win with captain Ryan Callahan (bruised foot) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (hip) out of the lineup.
Carolina is looking to bounce back from Sunday’s 2-0 loss at Florida. It marked the first shutout defeat for the Hurricanes since Nov. 18, when they fell 1-0 to Buffalo.
Cam Ward stopped 31 shots for Carolina on Sunday, but he has a 3.99 goals against average during the Hurricanes’ four-game skid against the Rangers.
Jeff Skinner has five goals and two assists in seven career games versus New York, but he’s been held without a point in his last two at MSG.
Carolina Hurricanes – Cam Ward
New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist
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