RANGERS (14-5-3) at LIGHTNING (11-11-2)
TV: MSG, SUN (HD)
New York 8-2-0; Tampa Bay 4-6-0
This is the first of four meetings. The Lightning swept the season series last year, going 4-0-0 with two of the wins coming after regulation.
They've been back to Tampa separately since winning the Stanley Cup there in 2004, but Rangers coach John Tortorella and center Brad Richards
will make the trip together for the first time. Richards had 12 goals and 26 points in 23 playoff games that spring on his way to the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Take away a two-game hiccup against the Canadiens and Panthers that ended a seven-game winning streak, and the Rangers are right back to their winning ways. They've taken three straight, including Thursday night's 5-3 victory in Carolina.
continued his stellar season with a goal and an assist as the Rangers didn't let late goals in the first and second periods bring them down. They allowed a goal late in the second period of a win against the Penguins that opened the door for a potential comeback, but the Rangers have been shutting that down.
"We have some good momentum, and guys have some confidence now," defenseman Ryan McDonagh
said. "Pucks are finding the back of the net. As long as you can ride that out and keep the wins coming, that's a good sign."
Two straight losses on the road followed a pair of wins, a problem the Lightning have dealt with all season. They've yet to string together more than three wins in a row and when they seem to get going, a rough patch follows.
They lost 4-2 in Detroit on Wednesday, but the game was tied entering the third period, something coach Guy Boucher believes is a good sign.
"To me, this is a top notch Stanley Cup contender team and (the score) was 2-2 after two periods and we're on the road, so we did pretty good," Boucher said. "We killed ourselves with a few turnovers and they made their power play work in the third and we didn't."
Gaborik has 3 goals and 3 assists in his past five games. … Martin St. Louis
has 2 goals and 2 assists in his past four games for the Lightning.
Rangers forward John Mitchell absorbed a slap shot to the face against the Hurricanes that resulted in seven stitches, but said afterward he was OK. … He's been out all season, but Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund
(knee) is about two weeks from returning.
More blocked shots could be on the way in Tampa. The Rangers rank ninth and the Lightning 10th in the category.
"You're just frustrated because, who wants to block a shot with your face, right?" Mitchell said about the unfortunate injury.