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At the Rink: Rangers at Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — After the most successful month in franchise history, the Florida Panthers will look to keep things rolling Saturday against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-F).

The Panthers (21-12-4)?would move back into first place in the Atlantic Division with a franchise-record eighth consecutive victory.

"We've played really well on this homestand and the last month has been real good for us, so we've just got to keep it going,"???said coach Gerard Gallant, whose multi-year contract extension was announced Saturday. "We're playing against a good Rangers team tonight. It's a battle. You go out there and keep it going, play the way we played the last month and we'll be fine."

The Panthers, who went 11-3-0 in December and set a franchise record for points in a month with 22, will be looking to end a seven-game losing streak against the Rangers.

The Rangers most recently won 5-4 in overtime after the Panthers scored twice in the final three minutes of regulation on Nov. 21 at BB&T Center.

Florida fell to 8-8-4 after that loss, but has gone 13-4-0 since.

"They were playing well at the time and still are, but we saw it as a big game, as one of our really big tests of the year,"???defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "Coming back against them was huge; huge for our confidence. Unfortunately, it didn't work out well for us, but we still got a point out of it and the silver lining is that we kept going. We felt we dominated that game for 60 minutes and we came up on the short end. That game was what it was, but it led to better things."

The game will be the fifth of a six-game homestand for the Panthers, who play the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

The Rangers (21-13-4), wrapping up a three-game road trip, are coming off a 5-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

The Rangers did not have a morning skate after practicing at BB&T???Center on Friday.

Defenseman Dan Girardi sat out practice but is expected to play against the Panthers despite a cracked right kneecap.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start. He is 9-2-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in his past 12 road games against the Panthers.

Lundqvist made 39 saves in the victory against Florida on Nov. 21.

Ten different Rangers players recorded a point that game. Rick Nash had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in overtime, and Mats Zuccarello had a goal and two assists.

The Panthers got goals from Nick Bjugstad, Jussi Jokinen, Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr.

The Panthers haven't beaten the Rangers since April 23, 2013. Earlier this season, they won at New Jersey for the first time since February 2012 and at Columbus for the first time since November 2007.

"We ended New Jersey, a lot of streaks, Columbus, so why not end this one right now?"???forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. "It's going to be huge. It's going to be tough. There's going to be a lot of New York fans here, like every year, but it's going to be a good game. I feel good about it and I???think we're having fun."

Here are the projected lines:


J.T. MillerDerick BrassardMats Zuccarello

Rick NashDerek StepanJesper Fast

Chris Kreider - Oscar LindbergEmerson Etem

Tanner GlassDominic MooreViktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonaghDan Girardi

Keith YandleKevin Klein

Marc StaalDan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: None

Scratched: Kevin Hayes, Dylan McIlrath


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Brandon Pirri - Derek MacKenzie - Logan Shaw

Quinton Howden - Corban Knight - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Steven Kampfer (lower body), Dave Bolland (lower body)

Scratched:?????????Connor Brickley

Status report: Hayes is expected to be a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game. ... Bolland, who is listed as day-to-day, was the only Panthers player missing from the morning skate. ... Luongo is expected to start in net for the Panthers, and Montoya will likely start against Minnesota on Sunday. ... Bjustad will miss his 15th game but could be back in the lineup against the Wild.

Who's hot: Brassard, who has 13 points in his past 14 games, is one of six NHL?????????players with at least 10 goals, 20 takeaways and a 50.0 faceoff win percentage (minimum 600 faceoffs taken)???????????????????????????this season. ... Boyle has a goal in five of the past 10 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first Rangers defenseman since Brian Leetch in 1997-98 to have a goal in five different games in a span of 10 or fewer games. ... Barkov had two goals in each of Florida's past two games. ... Huberdeau had four assists in those two games. ... Jagr has 88 points (29 goals, 59 assists)???????????????????????????in 70 career games against the Rangers.

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