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At the Rink: Rangers at Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to shut down one of the NHL's premier goal-scorers when they host the New York Rangers at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

Rick Nash of the Rangers is tied with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the League lead in goals with 33.

"He's such a big man and can protect the puck so well," said Toronto interim coach Peter Horachek, who saw plenty of Nash during his 10-year stint as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators when the Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash's former team, were in the Central Division. "He's got such a long wing span and he can score from behind the net and in front of the net. He has the ability to skate and shoot. He is a dangerous guy to handle because of his size, his strength and his skill."

The Maple Leafs (23-27-4) ended an 11-game losing streak (0-10-1) with a win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The Rangers (30-16-5) are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss against the Dallas Stars on Sunday and have dropped two in a row (0-1-1).

With Henrik Lundqvist, New York's No. 1 goalie, out with a neck injury, the spotlight is on Nash to carry the load on offense.

"He's an All-Star who is big and has a lot of speed and skill," Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. "He's hard to play against. You have to be aware of him every time he's on the ice. You have to play his body. He can make you look dumb if you are trying to play the puck. You have to watch his chest and try to take away his time and space."

Nash had 26 goals in 65 regular-season games last season, and three goals in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Nash had sustained a concussion in the third game last season and said that had a negative effect on his play.

"It's tough to come back after an injury like that," he said. "You work so hard in the offseason to prepare for the year and then you miss six weeks out of the gate. Then you are expected to come back and play at a high level. Sometimes it is tough."

This season Nash and linemates Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello have formed one of the top-scoring lines in the NHL.

"The puck is going in for me," Nash said. "I've got good chemistry with my linemates and they have been helping me out a lot."

Here are the projected lineups:


Mats Zuccarello - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Tanner Glass - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

John Moore - Dan Boyle

Cam Talbot

Mackenzie Skapski

Scratched: Matt Hunwick

Injured: Henrik Lundqvist (neck), Jesper Fast (knee)


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - Joffrey Lupul

Daniel Winnik - Nazem Kadri - Mike Santorelli

David Booth - Trevor Smith - Richard Panik

Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak

Korbinian Holzer - Stephane Robidas

Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: David Clarkson

Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand)

Status report: Clarkson, who was a healthy scratch against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, will not play against the Rangers. Horachek said he wanted to play the same lineup that beat the Oilers against New York. … Bernier will be the backup goalie after not playing Saturday because of illness.

Who's hot: Nash did not score against the Stars on Sunday but had goals in his previous four games. … Zuccarello has one goal and five assists during his five-game point streak. … Kessel has points in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 29-31. … Gardiner has three points in his past two games.

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