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Preview: Rangers at Maple Leafs

Defenseman Alexey Marchenko to make Toronto debut; goalie Henrik Lundquist will start fourth straight for New York

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

RANGERS (38-19-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (28-20-11)

7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SNO, MSG, NHL.TV


Rangers team scope

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will make his fourth consecutive start. He is 9-2-1 and has allowed 25 goals in his past 13 starts, a stretch that began with a victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Jan. 19. He had lost three consecutive games and allowed 16 goals prior to that game. "I think as a team lately, we've played pretty good in our own end and have tried to box guys out in front of me, try to help me see the puck," Lundqvist said Thursday. "We've been focusing on that and trying to do a better job." The Rangers hold a 12-point lead over the New York Islanders for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division. New York is 7-1-1 in its past nine games and is 19-8-0 away from Madison Square Garden, the best road record in the Eastern Conference. "We've been a good road team since I've been in New York," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I've mentioned this many times, but there's not a home way to play or a road way to play, there's just one way to play and that's the right way. We try to play the right way on the road and at home." The Rangers and Maple Leafs have split two games this season; Toronto won 4-2 at New York on Jan. 13.


Maple Leafs team scope

Defenseman Alexey Marchenko will make his Maple Leafs debut Thursday. He was claimed on waivers from the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 4 but has been a healthy scratch in Toronto's past 10 games. Marchenko, 25, last played on Jan. 20 as a member of the Red Wings and had six assists in 30 games with Detroit this season. Marchenko played in 14 games with the Red Wings under coach Mike Babcock from 2013-15, and feels that familiarity will help his transition into the Maple Leafs lineup. "I think so, for sure," Marchenko said. "When you know the coach, it's really good for you. It helps you. He knows what to expect from you and what you can do on the ice. I hope it's going to help me." Defenseman Connor Carrick sustained an upper-body injury in a 5-4 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and is day to day. "It's a good opportunity for us to see Marchenko," Babcock said. "Anytime you've sat out as much as him, the first game can be tough, that's the way it goes. He's got an elite stick, great hockey sense. His biggest thing is quickness but I'm very comfortable he can help our team." Forward Mitchell Marner will miss his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. Toronto is in third place in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the second-place Ottawa Senators.


Rangers projected lineup

Jimmy Vesey -- Derek Stepan -- Rick Nash

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner -- Kevin Hayes -- J.T. Miller

Brandon Pirri -- Oscar Lindberg -- Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh -- Dan Girardi

Marc Staal -- Nick Holden

Brady Skjei -- Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Adam Clendening, Pavel Buchnevich, Matt Puempel

Injured: None


Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Connor Brown

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- Josh Leivo

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Matt Martin -- Frederik Gauthier -- Nikita Soshnikov

Morgan Rielly -- Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner -- Alexey Marchenko

Matt Hunwick -- Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Ben Smith, Martin Marincin

Injured: Mitchell Marner (upper body), Connor Carrick (upper body)


Status Report

Buchnevich is expected to be a healthy scratch. … Marner skated alongside Marchenko, Marincin and Smith at the Maple Leafs optional practice on Wednesday, but did not take part in the morning skate Thursday, and there was no update regarding his return.


Who's hot

Hayes has 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in his past 18 games. … Miller has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in his past 10 games. … Matthews has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in his past 10 games. … Nylander has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in his past 10 games; Leivo has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his past five games. … Kadri has seven points (five goals, two assists) in a five-game point streak.

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