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Hurricanes return home to host Rangers

by Tal Pinchevsky

RANGERS (33-26-4) at HURRICANES (27-26-9)


Last 10: New York 6-3-1; Carolina 3-7-0

Season series: This is the second of four games between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes, who meet again in Raleigh on Tuesday. The Rangers beat the Hurricanes 5-1 in New York on Nov. 2.

Big story: With the Pittsburgh Penguins securely atop the Metropolitan Division, New York is battling for the second and third spots and the automatic playoff berths that go with them. The Rangers have dropped from second to third after an 0-2-1 streak. The Hurricanes lost five straight before a key road win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday gave their playoff hopes a boost.

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York may have lost 3-2 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs at home on Wednesday, but the day will be remembered much more for the blockbuster deal the Rangers made to acquire Martin St. Louis from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the NHL Trade Deadline. The Rangers paid a big cost; they sent captain Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional second-rounder in 2014 to the Lightning, St. Louis was in the lineup against Toronto and did not register a point in the loss but found some chemistry with linemates Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards, a former teammate in Tampa Bay.

He had his first practice with his new team on Thursday before the flight to Raleigh.

"There's no time to be emotional about it, not much time to think and reflect, we've got games to win in a tight playoff race," St. Louis said of the trade after practice. "There's no dipping the toe in. I have to jump right in here."

Coach Alain Vigneault said Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed 13 goals in the three losses, will start in goal. He also warned against excessive expectations as St. Louis gets used to his new team.

"Any time you change one player you change the dynamics in your room. Yes, we lost a very important member," Vigneault said. "But I think we've added a great piece, and we now need to let those new dynamics form."

Hurricanes: When February started, Carolina held the third spot in the Metropolitan and was four points behind the second-place Rangers with two games in hand. The Hurricanes have struggled mightily since then, going 2-6-0 and falling to seventh in the division. They went 0-4-0 to start a cross-country road swing but salvaged the trip Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime win against the Sharks in which Jay Harrison scored the winner.

Carolina's lone move at the trade deadline was acquiring forward Andrei Loktionov and a conditional draft pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Tuomo Ruutu. Loktionov won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and will likely be in the lineup Friday.

"Andrei is a young skilled forward who will play on our power play," president and general manager Jim Rutherford said.

The biggest change in Carolina's lineup will be the loss of top defenseman Justin Faulk, who is out with an upper-body injury. Ryan Murphy was called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League on Thursday.

Who's hot: Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh has goals in consecutive games and center Derek Stepan has five points, all assists, in a four-game point streak since play resumed after the 2014 Sochi Olympics. … Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera has two goals and six points during a five-game point streak. Forward Alexander Semin has two goals and three points in his past four games.

Injury report: Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello (broken hand) may be ready to return. … Faulk is expected to miss at least one week for Carolina.

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