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At the Rink: Ducks at Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Two struggling teams head into Madison Square Garden on Tuesday hoping to get a win and some good vibes going into the NHL's holiday break when the New York Rangers host the Anaheim Ducks (7 p.m. ET; SN1, SNO, PRIME, FS-SD, MSG).

The Rangers have lost three in a row in regulation, allowing 17 goals in the process. They have given up five or more goals in five of their past six games. New York is 1-5-1 in its past seven and 3-9-2 in its past 14.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault gave his players Monday off.

"I don't think guys' minds were away from the rink; it was more of a reset, rethink, and refocus," defenseman Marc Staal said. "It was good to get away and come back here with some energy tonight to try to get a win."

The Ducks didn't have a morning skate Tuesday after losing 5-2 at the New York Islanders on Monday. It was their third loss in four games and the seventh consecutive game in which they have scored two or fewer goals. That has happened in 21 of their 32 games.

The Ducks are averaging a League-worst 1.84 goals per game. They rank last in the League with 12 goals in the second period. That's half as many as the 29th-ranked Edmonton Oilers.

"To end this, we need consistency," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau told the Ducks website following the game Monday. "We play a good game, then a bad game. We're not forming good habits on a continual basis."

The Rangers have been plagued by defensive breakdowns that have played in a role in goalie Henrik Lundqvist's uncharacteristically poor play of late. Lundqvist has allowed 13 goals in his past three games and 20 in his past five.

The Washington Capitals scored four unanswered goals on Lundqvist in the second period Sunday. Lundqvist didn't play the third period and the Rangers went on to lose 7-3.

"Even though we leave the rink at night a lot of this stuff stays with us," Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle said. "You don't want that negative energy to be around for the next four or five days while you're around your kids at Christmas. So it's important for us to get a win. It doesn't solve everything, but it could certainly help a little bit."

The Rangers are trying not to be persuaded into thinking the Ducks' scoring problems will automatically continue against them, particularly because of how poor they have been in keeping the puck out of the net.

"I've heard they're struggling, but I've played against them enough being out west [with the San Jose Sharks] that nothing changes for me," Boyle said. "They could have zero wins coming in for all I care, I know it's going to be a tough one. Regardless of who we're playing, being defensively strong has to be our priority. We have to play the way we're accustomed to playing before this last little stretch, and give the opposition as little as possible."

If they do, the Rangers think they can at least go into the holiday break with a positive feeling. If not, another struggling team will benefit.

"Any time you go into a break with a win you kind of get a warmer, fuzzier feeling on Christmas morning than you would otherwise," Staal said. "It comes at a time when we're struggling and we just need to find a way to win a hockey game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Patrick Maroon - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Carl Hagelin - Ryan Kesler - Andrew Cogliano

Jiri Sekac - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg

Mike Santorelli - Shawn Horcoff - Chris Stewart

Cam Fowler - Kevin Bieksa

Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson

Sami Vatanen - Clayton Stoner

John Gibson

Frederik Andersen

Injured: Simon Despres (concussion)

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Nate Thompson, Max Friberg


Chris Kreider - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Emerson Etem

Marc Staal - Ryan McDonagh

Keith Yandle - Dylan McIlrath

Chris Summers - Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Magnus Hellberg

Injured: Dan Girardi (knee), Kevin Klein (oblique), Antti Raanta (head)

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg

Status report: Girardi and Klein skated Tuesday morning, but Vigneault said they are not ready to play. Girardi will miss his fifth straight game and Klein will miss his 11th in a row. Vigneault said he's hopeful they will be either ready or close to being ready to return when the Rangers come back after the holiday break. New York doesn't play again until Monday. "I thought [Klein] had some good opportunity to be ready prior to this, but those injuries are always tough to predict. Hopefully, come the 27th, we'll practice and there's a good chance you might see both those guys," Vigneault said. … Hagelin will play his first game against the Rangers and Etem his first against the Ducks since they were traded for each other June 27. Hagelin played four seasons with the Rangers, who drafted him in the sixth round (No. 168) of the 2007 NHL Draft. Etem played parts of three seasons with the Ducks, who drafted him in the first round (No. 29) of the 2010 draft. Thompson is eligible to return after serving a three-game suspension.

Who's hot: Miller and Boyle each have goals in back-to-back games. Miller and McDonagh have points in three straight.


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