RANGERS (16-16-3) AT HURRICANES (9-20-6)
-- New York 3-5-2; Carolina 4-5-1.
-- This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. They split the 2008-09 season series with each team winning twice on its respective home ice.
-- The Rangers snapped a five-game losing streak with a pair of road wins against the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers this past Thursday and Saturday, respectively. They are aiming for their first winning streak of the season since they won their seventh in a row back on Oct. 17. The Hurricanes are in last place in the NHL, but have won two of their last three games.
-- Coach John Tortorella finally had enough with his team’s lackluster play after this past Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden as he launched into an expletive-filled tirade when answering reporters’ questions in the post-game press conference. The outburst was followed by a benching of underachieving defenseman Wade Redden
and right wing Ales Kotalik for the Blueshirts’ next two games, as well as a demotion to the fourth line for captain Chris Drury. There hasn’t been any news yet regarding if Tortorella will reinstate Redden or Kotalik for Monday’s game at Raleigh.
-- Carolina has been depleted by injuries all season long and thus has fell to the very bottom of the League standings with only 24 points through 35 games played. The one positive side of having to deal with so many men hurt is that younger players like right wing Patrick Dwyer
are getting an opportunity to gain more playing time. Dwyer has scored goals in each of his last two games after a nine-game goal drought.
All-Star goalie Cam Ward
has struggled since returning from injury in early December, but he has been solid against the Rangers at home, going 4-2-0 with a 2.01 goals against average and one shutout over his career against the Blueshirts in Raleigh.
-- Goalie Henrik Lundqvist
has won two in a row for the Rangers and has a 1.87 GAA over his last eight games. Captain Eric Staal
had a six-point, four-game scoring streak snapped in Saturday’s win over the Florida Panthers.
-- The Rangers have a fully healthy lineup. Carolina defensemen Niclas Wallin (upper body) and Tim Gleason
(concussion-like symptoms/facial laceration) are still inactive. Forwards Chad LaRose
(lower body) and Erik Cole (upper body) are out several weeks. Defenseman Joe Corvo had leg surgery and will miss 2-3 months. Casey Borer (broken neck) and Michael Ryan (concussion) have not played yet this season.
-- Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik
continues to lead the League in goals with 24. The Hurricanes are last in the NHL in goals against per game with a 3.57 average.
-- New York is a desperate team right now seeking to build some sort of momentum that has been seemingly non existent since the end of October. A matchup against the League’s worst club should provide them with the boost that they need, although it remains to be seen if Tortorella will roll Lundqvist out for his 10th straight start or if he’ll allow rookie backup Chad Johnson
to finally make his NHL debut. Either way, the Rangers must slay the demons that have plagued them at RBC Center if they want to win their third in a row.