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Lightning, Rangers need points before break

by Dave Lozo
LIGHTNING (35-22-4) at RANGERS (27-21-12)

Last 10 -- Tampa Bay 6-3-1; New York 3-7-0

Season Series --
This is the third of four meetings, with the teams splitting the first two contests.

Big Story --
It's two teams in a battle for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning are situated in ninth place with 63 points. The Rangers are right behind them with 61 points.

Team Scope:

Lightning -- A tough 5-4 loss on Long Island on Saturday afternoon left the Lightning shaking their heads. Sure, it's the NHL and anyone can beat anyone on any given day, but if you want to make the playoffs, beating other teams out of the top eight is extremely important.

"We can't afford to be having games like this," said Steven Stamkos, who had a goal and an assist in the loss. "The team has been winning lately -- we've shown bursts of good hockey, the type of hockey we need to be in the playoffs. But we need to be a little more consistent. We have to find a way to play better down the stretch."

Rangers --
Just when things look their worst, New York finds a way to pull itself out of the muck.

On the road against the Stanley Cup-champion Penguins, a team the Rangers hadn't beaten in seven games, they found a way to eek out a 3-2 overtime victory despite Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto leaving with injuries midway through the contest.

Gaborik tried to play after suffering a thigh laceration Tuesday, but only lasted four minutes. Del Zotto needed 50 stitches after suffering a cut of his own after he fell on the skate of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.

Who's Hot -- Stamkos is riding a 12-game points streak into Madison Square Garden. He has 9 goals and 12 assists and is a plus-9 over that span. … Prospal is carrying the load offensively of late for the Rangers. He has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last four games.

Injury Report --
Lightning defenseman David Hale is out with a leg injury. … Gaborik and Del Zotto are the only significant injuries for the Rangers.

Stat Pack --
Tampa's Martin St. Louis has 9 goals and 6 assists in his last 9 games. … Rangers captain Chris Drury is 1 point from 600 in his NHL career and 1 goal from 250. … Rangers tough guy Donald Brashear was sent to AHL Hartford while defenseman Corey Potter was recalled in anticipation of Del Zotto not being able to play tonight.

Puck Drop --
It's the last game for both teams before the Olympic break. Both teams are in desperate need of points, and to pick up two of them before taking off for two-plus weeks is key to their playoff hopes.

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