Having tied the best 12-game start in franchise history and with the highest point total in the NHL, the New York Rangers look to keep their roll going when they face a team that's tied for the fewest points in the league.
The Rangers try for their fourth straight victory when they host the Atlanta Thrashers, losers of four in a row, Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
New York (9-2-1) got off to a stumbling start last season with six losses in its first eight games, but this season has been a different story. The Rangers lead the league with 19 points and have rebounded from their first back-to-back losses of 2008-09 with three consecutive wins.
The Rangers knocked off the archrival New York Islanders 4-2 on the road Monday, as captain Chris Drury scored his first two goals and Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves.
"It's still early in the season, so who knows where everybody ends up," coach Tom Renney said. "These are important games because we do have a good point total and we want to add to that. If that is at the expense of somebody in our division, great."
New York's fast start is due in large part to Lundqvist, who lowered his goals-against average to 1.99 in 10 games this season.
"That's the one standard with us, that we have the best insurance policy in the league back there in the blue paint," winger Aaron Voros told the Rangers' official Web site. "He's an absolute rock back there for us."
Lundqvist only faced five shots in the third period Monday, while the Rangers carried the play with 14. They outshot the Islanders 39-30 overall.
New York also had 19 points through 12 games in the 1978-79 and 1989-90 seasons, and nine wins through 12 games in 1983-84.
While the Rangers have jumped to the top of the NHL, the Thrashers (2-5-2) find themselves at the bottom. Atlanta was pounded 7-0 at home by Philadelphia on Tuesday night and is tied for the fewest points in the league with six.
The only bright spot for the Thrashers came when goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who played the whole game, stopped a penalty shot with 7:47 remaining. Atlanta gave up four goals in the third period.
"We weren't ready, and from the start we didn't have the effort we wanted," forward Colby Armstrong said. "There was a couple of good bounces for them, but at the same time the game was there for us. After they got up a few, we just kind of folded the tent."
The lopsided loss left the Thrashers tied with the Flyers for most goals allowed in the Eastern Conference with 34.
"The hard thing for me is that I can't go out there and play for them," first-year coach John Anderson said. "They have to find this from within. This is a part of growing as a team."
The Thrashers lost the last two meetings with the Rangers last season, but took the season series 2-1-1 and had won five in a row over New York prior to the defeats.