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Lightning continue playoff push vs. Rangers

by Davis Harper
RANGERS (41-15-6) at LIGHTNING (29-28-6)


Last 10: New York 7-2-1; Tampa Bay 6-4-0

Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams, and the first since Dec. 8. New York holds a 2-0-1 edge, but the Lightning won the most recent meeting, 3-2 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden.

Big Story: Tampa Bay will look to continue its late-season playoff push when it welcomes the East's top-ranked team. Both teams are riding winning streaks, but the Lightning clearly have more to play for. The Rangers are nine points clear of second-place Boston, while the Bolts are 12th, six points behind eighth-place Winnipeg.

Team Scope:

Rangers: When New York general manager Glen Sather stood pat through Monday's trade deadline - acquiring only low-line enforcer John Scott - many around the League wondered whether New York had the offensive depth to challenge for the title. So far, the Rangers are putting those doubts to rest. The Rangers blanked the New Jersey 2-0 on Monday, and followed that with a 3-2 win in Carolina on Thursday. Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik and Brandon Prust scored goals and Martin Biron made 21 saves to win for the first time in three outings.

"We have a very balanced team," Gaborik said. "Everybody can play. We're rolling all four lines and everybody did their job. It was a team effort with Marty making a lot of great saves."

Lightning : If nobody else wants eighth place in the East, Tampa Bay will be glad to take it. After finding themselves in last place in December, the Bolts been digging themselves out ever since. They rebounded from an 8-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday with wins against New Jersey and Montreal, while using deadline day deals to shore up its blue line.

Despite playing with six AHL call-ups on Tuesday against Montreal, Tampa Bay still managed a 2-1 win on the strength of goals from Steven Stamkos and Adam Hall. Stamkos leads the NHL with 44 goals.

"We needed to do the best that we possibly could," coach Guy Boucher said. "And I think we got the best out of our guys tonight."

Who's Hot: Martin St. Louis has proved a perfect foil for Stamkos since joining his line, scoring four goals and three assists over his last four games.

Injury Report: New York's Brandon Dubinsky played Thursday despite a sore shoulder, but captain Ryan Callahan missed the game with a bruised foot. Michael Sauer (concussion) is on injured reserve. … Three Bolts that have missed time with the flu could be back on Friday. Nate Thompson and Brendan Mikkelson are probable, and Teddy Purcell is questionable. Ryan Shannon (upper body) is also probable, while Victor Hedman (upper body), Vincent Lecavalier (broken right hand), Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) and Dana Tyrell (right knee surgery) are all out indefinitely.

Stat Pack: If the Lightning are to return to the playoffs, they'll likely close the gap over the next 12 games - 10 of which are at home. The Bolts are 19-9-2 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, including four straight wins. But they won't find the going easy against Henrik Lundqvist, who recently became the first goalie ever to win 30 games in each of his first seven NHL seasons.

Puck Drop: Boucher couldn't praise his young call-ups enough after Tuesday's game, saying "We're in the business of doing the impossible."

"This is the best we could get from these guys," he said. "The American Leaguers and the new guys coming in having no idea how we play, they just jumped out there. Like we say to new players, 'We're in the business of doing the impossible,' and that's what we needed to do tonight."

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