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At the Rink: Stars at Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The only other time in his career that New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot started both games in a back-to-back he finished the set on a high note. He'll get the opportunity to do it again Sunday at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers play the Dallas Stars.

Talbot, who has taken over as the Rangers' No. 1 goalie for the injured Henrik Lundqvist (neck), made 20 saves in a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday that ended the Rangers' three-game winning streak.

Talbot started both games in a back-to-back shortly before Christmas last season, when Lundqvist was struggling. He won both games, including a 25-save performance in a 2-1 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game. That was part of the only other time in his career that Talbot started as many as three consecutive games. His Sunday will be his third in a row.

Talbot has never faced the Stars in his career.

Mackenzie Skapski remains Talbot's backup with Lundqvist injured. Skapski, who is 20 years old, has never played in an NHL game. He was born June 15, 1994, the day after the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.

Also for the Rangers, center Derek Stepan will play Sunday after missing the game Saturday with flu-like symptoms. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Stepan is 100 percent ready to go.

Vigneault said forward Jesper Fast, who left the game Saturday with a sprained knee, had an MRI Sunday morning, the results of which were not available to the coach by the time he met the media at 3 p.m. ET. Vigneault said he expects Fast will miss more than just the game Sunday.

Fast's injury leaves the Rangers with 12 healthy forwards. The Rangers might recall a forward from Hartford of the American Hockey League to accompany them on their upcoming four-game road trip, which begins Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

"He's been one of our more dependable players," Vigneault said of Fast. "Other than one turnover that sticks in my mind right now, he's been very dependable without the puck, with the puck, he's done a great job killing for us. What this is going to do depending on how long he's out obviously is it's going to permit some guys a little bit more ice time, a little bigger role, and it's going to give them the opportunity to show what they can do."

Dallas will try to end a three-game losing streak. The Stars lost 3-2 to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday with Anders Lindback in goal. Kari Lehtonen will start Sunday. Lehtonen made 28 saves in a 3-2 win against the Rangers on Dec. 29 in Dallas.

The Stars lost to Buffalo despite outshooting the Sabres 40-24 and holding an 86-37 advantage in total shot attempts, including 28 shots that were blocked and 18 that missed the net. Stars center Tyler Seguin had 10 shots on goal and 20 total shot attempts.

"It looked like we tried to lean on the offense when we just needed to stay patient," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "They scored a lucky goal, we took a bad penalty, but in a game like that just stay patient and the chances were going to be there. I felt going through we missed the net way too many times. We had Grade A, Grade A, Grade A that just missed the net, missed the net, missed the net."

Seguin scored his 29th goal of the season Saturday, but all it did was help him keep pace in the Rocket Richard Trophy race with Rangers forward Rick Nash, who scored his League-leading 33rd goal of the season against Nashville.

Seguin had gone the previous six games without a goal.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had 32 goals going into his game Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Brett Ritchie, David Schlemko

Injured: Travis Moen (lower body), Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (hip ), Rich Peverley (heart )


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)

Status report: Vigneault said there could be one change on defense, but he wouldn't indicate what it would be. … Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Ritchie could play, but it would be a game-time decision.

Who's hot: Nash has goals in four straight games and five in total in that stretch. It's the third time this season he has scored in four consecutive games. … Klingberg had two assists Saturday, giving him nine points in his past five games.


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