RANGERS (40-15-6) at HURRICANES (24-26-13)
Last 10: New York 7-2-1; Carolina 5-1-4
Season Series: This is the third meeting of four this season. The Rangers are 2-0 against the Hurricanes.
Big Story: Motivation might be tough to find down the stretch for these teams, but for different reasons. The Rangers are atop the East, nine points clear of second-place Boston. The Hurricanes are in 13th, eight points behind eighth-place Washington. Both teams are playing well in their last 10 games, so keeping that momentum going through March will be important if the Rangers' want to hang on to the top seed and the Hurricanes want to make a late push and at the very least finish strong.
Rangers: This game kicks off a grueling stretch of 17 in 30 days for the Rangers, but they closed February on a strong note, beating the Devils 2-0 on Tuesday night. It was the first game after the trade deadline, one that was believed to feature Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets coming to New York.
Instead, the Rangers basically stood pat, acquiring defenseman/forward John Scott from the Blackhawks as their only move. The locker room stayed intact, and that meant a lot to the East-leading Rangers.
"We're just looking forward to the next game and it's a great mentality to have," defenseman Ryan McDonagh told Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record. "We have such a tight-knit group. We really hold each other accountable, battle and have the will to compete. That's a tough thing to find in a locker room, especially at this level."
Hurricanes: Carolina finished February 6-1-4, picking up 16 of a possible 22 points to climb a bit in the East. The Hurricanes continued to keep their faint hopes alive with a 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, and coach Kirk Muller is happy with his team's effort in the face of so many injuries.
"What I really like is the way the guys are fighting and the way they're getting points," said Muller, who was without Cam Ward, Chad LaRose, Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen for either all of February or most of it, to Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer. "They're giving everything they've got. Some nights it's not good enough and some nights it is, but I can live with that if they compete and play hard on a consistent level, which they've been doing."
Who's Hot: Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last two games. … Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has points in nine straight games, 7 goals and 9 assists.
Injury Report: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan (foot) is listed as day-to-day. … LaRose (upper body) is day-to-day for Carolina. Ruutu (upper body), Pitkanen (concussion) and goalie Brian Boucher (lower body) are out.
Stat Pack: Should the Rangers leave RBC Center with a win, they will be the first team to earn 20 wins at home and 20 wins on the road this season.
Puck Drop: "This is a very tight hockey team. It is the tightest hockey team I've coached as far as how they have bonded. When you want to start getting to that area of getting success -- and we haven't gotten there. We've won some games, but this isn't success. You've got to do some things a few months from now for success -- but that room self-sustains, and it is on the track. As a general manager and organization, including me, you're always going to look to try to improve your team, but I'm happy what happened. This group gets to stay, and we'll keep on fighting together." -- Rangers coach John Tortorella, to Pat Leonard of The Daily News