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Two days after their biggest collapse in nearly five years, the Carolina Hurricanes should have their Conn Smythe-winning goaltender available for the first time this month.
Ward, the playoff MVP during the Hurricanes' run to the Stanley Cup in 2006, suffered a groin injury Nov. 30 in a loss to Anaheim. In his absence, the Hurricanes went 1-1-2, including a stunning 6-5 shootout loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.
Carolina (13-12-4) led 5-1 before Michael Leighton allowed four goals in the final period, capped by Simon Gagne's tying tally with 1:44 to play. It was the first time Carolina squandered a four-goal lead since April 4, 2004 in a 6-6 tie with Florida.
Leighton then gave up shootout goals to Gagne and Mike Richards.
"In the third we got a lesson in forecheck pressure," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice, 1-1-2 since taking over for the fired Peter Laviolette. "We had a difficult time moving the puck and our feet stopped moving."
With Ward out, Leighton posted a 3.14 goals-against average in four games. Ward, 8-7-2 with a 2.68 GAA this season, is 3-4-0 with a 2.56 GAA and one shutout against the Rangers.
Eric Staal scored twice in the loss to the Flyers, his first goal also being his 300th NHL point. Staal leads Carolina with 11 goals and is second with 19 points.
Though Staal has three goals in his last two games, New York will want to keep an eye on Ray Whitney, who has two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak. Whitney has eight goals versus the Rangers, but none in his last 16 games against them.
He leads the Hurricanes with 13 assists and 22 points this season.
New York, playing its final game at MSG before a three-game California trip, is 11-6-1 at home in 2008-09, but has alternated wins and losses in its last five there. The Rangers were shut out in their last two home defeats, 4-0 by Florida on Nov. 30 and 3-0 against Calgary on Sunday.
The Rangers (19-11-2) put together a stunning comeback of their own Friday as they erased a four-goal deficit, but lost 8-5 to New Jersey.
Ryan Callahan scored for New York with 8:42 remaining to tie the game at 5. Just 11 seconds later, however, Henrik Lundqvist gave up a goal to Patrik Elias before Brian Gionta and Jamie Langenbrunner also scored.
The eight goals allowed by the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist tied a career high set Dec. 16, 2006 against Toronto.
"Eight goals for a goalie is not a lot of fun," Lundqvist told the Rangers' official Web site. "We had some problems in our own zone obviously, and they found a lot of openings tonight. We made it pretty easy for them. But the bottom line is that I have to be better."
Through his first 18 games, Lundqvist was 12-4-2 with a 1.92 GAA. Since Nov. 19, when he allowed five goals in just over 25 minutes of a home loss to Vancouver, he's 4-5-0 with a 3.99 GAA.
The Rangers' Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and three assists against the Devils to post a career high in points, but New York dropped four points behind Boston for the Eastern Conference lead.
Carolina and New York split their four-game season series in 2007-08.