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Hurricanes-Rangers Preview

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With a loss in their last game, the New York Rangers missed a chance to tie the Carolina Hurricanes for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. A win in their next one can move them back into the postseason mix.

On Sunday, the Rangers will try to continue their strong play at Madison Square Garden against the Hurricanes and overtake two teams - including the defending Stanley Cup champions - for the final playoff spot in the East.

New York (33-27-8) begins play tied with Montreal for 10th place with 74 points, but both teams are just one point behind Carolina and Toronto for the eighth and final berth. The Rangers also have a game in hand over both the Hurricanes (34-28-7) and Maple Leafs, and have played two fewer games than the Canadiens.

The Rangers have won two of three meetings from the Hurricanes in 2006-07, outscoring them 9-3 in the season series. In their only meeting at MSG on Nov. 21, Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves and Jaromir Jagr scored two goals in a 4-0 New York victory.

That win improved the Rangers to 5-1-0 with a tie and in their last seven regular-season home games against the Hurricanes.

New York has earned at least one point in six straight games, but saw its three-game winning streak end with a 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Karel Rachunek and Matt Cullen staked the Rangers to a 2-0 lead, but they were unable to hold it as Lundqvist allowed third-period power-play goals to Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby before Colby Armstrong scored 79 seconds into the extra session.

By squandering their second two-goal, third-period lead to Pittsburgh in 10 days, the Rangers fell to 21-4-4 when leading after two periods and missed an opportunity to move into a tie with the Hurricanes for eighth in the East.

"We had enough power plays (five) to put the game away," New York coach Tom Renney said. "As we didn't do that and became a bit frustrated, we overextended ourselves a little bit and took penalties ourselves. It comes down to our game and how we have to play."

The Rangers have scored power-play goals in seven of their last eight home games, and have converted 19.3 percent (32 of 166) opportunities with the man advantage at MSG this season.

Carolina has alternated losses and wins in its last four games, but if it's going to defend its championship, second-year goaltender Cam Ward must continue playing like the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

The Hurricanes may have been revitalized after coach Peter Laviolette gave them two consecutive days off earlier in the week. Ward responded by making 25 saves for his second career regular-season shutout in a 3-0 win over Washington on Friday.

"Coach did us a favor," said Ward, whose other shutout also came against the Capitals. "We made it worthwhile by coming out tonight and working extremely hard throughout the entire game. Guys looked like they had some energy and played with a purpose."

Andrew Ladd scored for Carolina early in the second period. Justin Williams added his team-high 32nd goal midway through the third before Niclas Wallin scored an empty-netter.

Rod Brind'Amour has recorded points in seven of his last eight road games, tallying four goals and eight assists in that span. The 36-year-old center leads Carolina with 50 assists and is second on the team with 71 points, two behind Ray Whitney.

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