Predators aim for fourth straight as they host Rangers
RANGERS (11-11-0) at PREDATORS (11-9-2)
TV: MSG-2, FS-TN
Last 10: New York 6-4-0; Nashville 5-4-1
Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators, who complete their season series Dec. 10 at Madison Square Garden. They last met Jan. 17, 2012, a 3-0 Rangers home victory in which Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves for the shutout.
Big story: New York and Nashville have almost identical records but find themselves in very different places in the standings. The Rangers' 22 points leave them in the thick of the early-season playoff race in the Metropolitan Division. Meanwhile, the Predators' 24 points leave them near the bottom of the ultra-competitive Central Division.
Rangers: In the first game of a five-game road trip Thursday night, the Rangers exploded offensively, relatively speaking. They scored three goals against the Dallas Stars, exceeding their total from the previous three games combined. They got goals from Chris Kreider and John Moore 37 seconds apart early in the third to help defeat the Stars 3-2. But it was Lundqvist who gave the Rangers a chance, making 41 saves in the game, including 23 in the first period to establish a career-high for stops in one period.
However, Lundqvist's finest play may have been the outlet pass he made that led to Rick Nash's highlight-reel goal in the first period. Nash notched his first of the season after returning Tuesday against the Boston Bruins following a 17-game absence caused by a concussion.
"Henrik made an unreal pass up so that we had that quick breakout," coach Alain Vigneault said. "After that, Henrik put on a display in the first period. We didn't have our legs, we had a tough time moving the puck and he kept us in the game."
Predators: The Predators are enjoying their first three-game win streak of the season and are looking to continue their hot play during a two-game mini-homestand that starts against the Rangers and ends Monday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
After scoring two goals in its previous four games, Nashville routed the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at home 7-2 on Nov. 16. The Predators maintained that strong two-way play on the road with a 2-0 win Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings and a 4-2 victory Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The win in Toronto was keyed by Matt Cullen's four points and Craig Smith's two goals and an assist, which gave the 24-year-old center his second three-point game in five days.
"We wanted to turn the ship around a little bit and I think we stayed on a few things we've been doing since the beginning of the year," Smith said. "If we stay the path, good things are going to happen."
Who's hot: Lundqvist has allowed two goals or less in three straight starts. Kreider has five points in his past six games. … Smith and Cullen each have six points in the past three games.
Injury report: Forward Taylor Pyatt is skating individually but remains out for the Rangers with a concussion. … Goaltender Pekka Rinne is out for Nashville with a hip injury. Eric Nystrom was hurt on Nov. 15 in a fight with Tanner Glass of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He resumed skating earlier this week but hasn't been cleared to play. Filip Forsberg is also out with an upper-body injury.