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Lightning aim to end skid against Rangers

by Mike Battaglino

LIGHTNING (6-4-0) at RANGERS (5-5-0)


Season series: The teams played last Saturday; the Rangers won,3-2 behind backup goalie Martin Biron in his only start of the season. Rick Nash scored a 1-1 tiebreaker at 3:04 of the third period to give the Rangers their only road win.

The Lightning return to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28.

Big story: The Lightning would have been playing the second of a back-to-back set but their game at the Boston Bruins scheduled for Saturday was postponed due to weather. With Boston's airport closed, the team was expected to take a bus to New York on Saturday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The Rangers, coming off their fourth two-day break of the season, defeated the New York Islanders 4-1 at home Thursday. They have won two in a row once this season.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Tampa Bay has lost three in a row since a five-game winning streak and 6-1-0 start, and their lead in the Southeast Division is now one point over the Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets.

In the losses, the Lightning were tied or within a goal entering the third period. According to Tampa Bay Online, they were 25-3-8 in one-goal games last season.

"The results are not what we want, but any adversity we face is good, especially early," forward Ryan Malone told the website. "Most of our guys are used to [close games], especially last year, we were in so many one-goal games. So, I think this year, starting now, we are going to see more one-goal games as everyone starts to get more defensive-minded and not as open as the first 10 games."

The Lightning's plus-15 goal differential led the NHL heading into play Saturday. But they are minus-1 on the road (11-10), where they are 1-3-0, with a power play that's 1-for-17.

"We can't go from being awful on the road last year (13-22-6) to all of a sudden be outstanding," coach Guy Boucher told the Times on Friday. "There is a process to it, and we're on the way there. I really believe it."

Backup goalie Mathieu Garon was going to start at Boston, with Anders Lindback expected to get this one.

Rangers: New York's search for some secondary offense has gotten a boost from rookie J.T. Miller, who scored his first two NHL goals in the win Thursday.

"It's going to be nice, a little day off tomorrow," Miller said after Friday's practice. "It's been crazy the last couple of weeks here, so I'm just trying to make sure I'm relaxed and then regroup again ... stay even-keel here and not worry about what happened last game and just go into the next game like it's my first game."

It will be Miller's third game; he made his debut Feb. 5.

The top three forwards -- Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Brad Richards -- have 10 of the Rangers' 24 goals, and 25 points. The rest of the Rangers forwards, excluding Miller, have eight goals and 18 points.

"It was a spark to see a guy come in his first two games and play the way [J.T.] has," captain Ryan Callahan said. "He ends up with two big goals for us. It definitely gives us energy, and it's good to see."

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist likely will face the Lightning for the first time since March 2, 2012. He is 1-2-4 in his past seven games against them.

Who's hot: Lightning forward Steven Stamkos has at least a point in all but one game. His 17 rank third in the League. Martin St. Louis is fifth with 16. Defenseman Matt Carle has four points in the past four games. … Rangers defenseman Marc Staal has three points in the past three games. Forward Chris Kreider has his first two points in the past two. Richards has an assist in three straight.

Injury report: Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi (undisclosed) has missed the past two games.

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