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At the Rink blog

Rangers look to keep up surge against Panthers

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 12:16 PM

By Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent / 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

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2012-2013 At the Rink blog
Rangers look to keep up surge against Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Rangers will look to continue their march to the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night when they face the Florida Panthers for the second time in less than a week.

The Rangers can clinch a playoff berth with a victory combined with a regulation loss by the Winnipeg Jets against the Washington Capitals.

The Panthers, who have been outscored 30-8 during their current six-game losing streak, would clinch the worst record in the NHL this season with a loss.

Florida will look different Tuesday from the team the Rangers beat 6-1 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Panthers will have two new defensemen in the lineup, with veteran Filip Kuba and recent AHL call-up Colby Robak replacing injured Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov. Kuba missed the game against the Rangers last week because of a lower-body injury, but was in the lineup for games against the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins over the weekend.

Up front, the big change for Florida is the return of right wing Peter Mueller, who missed the Panthers' four-game road trip to be with his wife, Taylar, for the birth of their first child, a son they named Charlie.

Mueller worked during the morning skate Tuesday on a line with Tomas Kopecky and center Nick Bjugstad, who will be playing in his ninth game after ending his career at the University of Minnesota and is still looking for his first NHL point.

"He looked like he had four, five days off, so he's going to need to pick it up tonight to be able to play at the pace this game is going to be at," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said of Mueller.

Mueller's usual wing partner, Jonathan Huberdeau, skated Tuesday morning on a line with Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann. Huberdeau is tied for the rookie scoring lead with Cory Conacher of the Ottawa Senators with 28 points and leads all rookies with 14 goals.

Huberdeau is one of the leading candidates for the Calder Trophy, but said that's not his focus.

"If I put pressure on myself, like I want to win, it won't happen," Huberdeau said. "I just try not to think about it. I need to finish strong, so that's what I'm going to try to do and we'll see what happens at the end of the year."

Jacob Markstrom was the first goalie off the ice for the Panthers and is expected to get the start.

Veteran Jose Theodore, who has been out since sustaining a groin injury March 2, was one of three players who worked before the morning skate. Dineen wouldn't rule out Theodore playing in one of the Panthers' final two games -- Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs or Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- but added "it's probably not realistic right now."

The Rangers did not hold a morning skate Tuesday. Four players took to the ice: expected healthy scratches Roman Hamrlik and Matt Gilroy, and injured players Marc Staal and Derek Dorsett.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in net for the Rangers.

Here are the projected lines for Tuesday's matchup between the Rangers and Panthers:

RANGERS

Carl Hagelin - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan

Ryane Clowe - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash

Taylor Pyatt - Brad Richards - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Darroll Powe - Arron Asham

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Michael Del Zotto - Dan Girardi

John Moore - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist

Martin Biron

Scratched: Roman Hamrlik - Matt Gilroy

Injured: D Michael Sauer (concussion), D Marc Staal (eye), RW Derek Dorsett (collarbone), C Brian Boyle (leg)

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Tomas Fleischmann

Tomas Kopecky - Nick Bjugstad - Peter Mueller

Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Drew Shore

Quinton Howden - Scott Timmins - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

TJ Brennan - Mike Weaver

Colby Robak - Alex Petrovic

Jacob Markstrom

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Jack Skille

Injured: D Tyson Strachan (upper body), D Erik Gudbranson (upper body), D Dmitry Kulikov (upper body), D Ed Jovanovski (hip), RW Kris Versteeg (knee), C Stephen Weiss (wrist), G Jose Theodore (groin), LW Sean Bergenheim (groin), LW Eric Selleck (upper body)

Quote of the Day

I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley