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Lightning start road trip in New York

by Eric Goodman

LIGHTNING (36-18-7) at RANGERS (33-26-4)


Last 10 -- Tampa Bay 5-3-2; New York 4-6-0

Season series -- This is the last of four games this season between these clubs. The Lightning won the first three meetings – once each in regulation, overtime and the shootout.

Big story -- Sunday's matinee pits two Eastern Conference clubs that have been heating up recently. The Rangers ended January and began February with a six-game losing streak, but have been solidifying their playoff status with wins in four of their last six games, including victories in their last two. They also added a new piece on Saturday by obtaining veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe from Florida -- a move that should help stabilize a young blue-line corps. Meanwhile, the Lightning have won their last two games by a combined score of 10-4.

Team Scope:

Lightning -- The Bolts capped a record-tying 12-game homestand by beating New Jersey 2-1 on Friday night. Tampa Bay now embarks on a modest three-game road trip – the first time the Lightning have been away from home for more than a month.

The Lightning played the role of streak killer once again Friday as the victory against the Devils marked the second straight game in which they halted the opposition's eight-game winning streak. An 8-3 triumph over Phoenix Wednesday ended the Coyotes' streak of eight wins.

"We’re happy," center Steven Stamkos said after Friday's game. "There were a couple of low spots, but I think we were able to bounce back pretty quickly. We wanted to get two big wins over two of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, and we accomplished that."

Rangers -- February has been a roller-coaster month for the Blueshirts, who started 0-4-1 but have turned it around with a 4-2-0 showing over their last six games.

Friday's 6-0 win at Washington was the Rangers' largest margin of victory in a shutout since they blanked the Maple Leafs 7-0 back on Jan. 19. New York's offense definitely clicked on Friday with goals from five players, including two from forward Erik Christensen.

And now they have McCabe, who's 35 but still capable of generating offense from the blue line -- especially on the power play.

“Bryan McCabe adds an established veteran presence to our young defensive corps,” GM Glen Sather said.  “He can help provide offense with his strong shot on the power play, and his versatility allows him to play either the left or right side effectively.  Bryan also brings outstanding leadership qualities, having served as team captain for Florida for the past two seasons.”

Who's hot -- Bolts forward Martin St. Louis is in the midst of an eight-game point streak with 3 goals and 8 assists over that span. The veteran forward also leads the Eastern Conference with 50 assists this season. ... Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has won two in a row with a 1.50 goals-against average. His backup, Martin Biron, is just 1-3-0 in his last five appearances but has managed an impressive 1.60 GAA over that span.

Injury report -- Forward Ryan Malone (mid body) and Mike Lundin (mid body) are still injured for Tampa Bay. ... Rangers forward Marian Gaborik missed his second straight game with a concussion Friday and his status remains questionable for Sunday. Defenseman Marc Staal missed Friday’s game with a knee injury. Forwards Alex Frolov (knee), Chris Drury (knee) and Derek Boogaard (concussion) are on IR for New York.

Stat pack -- The Rangers might want to stay out of the penalty box Sunday as the Lightning lead the Eastern Conference with a 20.6 percent success rate on the power play.

Puck drop -- As they enter the final quarter of the season, the Lightning are on the verge of their best season since 2004, when they won the franchise's only Stanley Cup. Beating the Devils put them five points ahead of Washington and in good position to finish second in the East -- a tremendous achievement for a team that has missed the playoffs three years running and has new GM and coach.

"We have something special here," center Vincent Lecavalier said.



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