RANGERS (27-19-3) at THRASHERS (23-18-8)
TV -- MSG PLUS (HD)
Last 10 -- New York 5-5-0; Atlanta 4-4-2
Season series -- It's the second meeting of the season, and the Rangers' first trip to Atlanta. The teams haven't seen each other since the Thrashers came to New York on Oct. 27 and left with a 6-4 victory. However, the Rangers haven't lost in regulation in their last four visits to Atlanta, going 2-0-2.
Big story -- The holders of the last two playoff spots in the East meet for the first time in nearly three months, with both needing a victory to preserve their position in the top eight. The Rangers had had big highs (a 7-0 win against Toronto on Wednesday) and lows (a 4-1 loss at Carolina the next night), while the Thrashers have been mired in a slump that includes a 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Rangers -- John Tortorella was one unhappy coach after Thursday's loss at Carolina. One night after his team was nearly flawless against Toronto, the Rangers tried to play run-and-gun hockey with the speedy 'Canes -- and got run over, even though they had 40 shots on goal.
"If we're going to compete, especially in the second half of the season, we have to defend the proper way," Tortorella said. "It has to be of the utmost importance to us. We have to defend first, and then work from there. So we have some work to do."
Thrashers -- Atlanta's problems have come because the Thrashers can't keep the puck out of their net. They've allowed 28 goals in their last six games, losing five of them.
"I thought we played a pretty good game," defenseman Brent Sopel said after the shootout loss to the Lightning. "We played smart and we played hard ... but we need to find a win."
Who's hot -- Wojtek Wolski has 2 goals and 5 points in six games since joining the Rangers in a trade. … Niclas Bergfors has 3 goals and 7 points in Atlanta's last eight games.
Injury report -- The Rangers, who were among the least-injured teams in the NHL during the last two years, have been beset with injuries this season. The latest came this week, when forward Brandon Dubinsky went down with a stress fracture in his left leg and Ruslan Fedotenko was KO'd with a shoulder separation. … Atlanta goalie Chris Mason (knee) and forward Fredrik Modin (undisclosed) are on IR. Captain Andrew Ladd missed Friday's practice due to illness.
Stat pack -- Despite not getting a point in his last eight games, Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien leads the team with 41 points and is tied for the NHL lead with six game-winners.
Puck drop -- The Rangers' parade of injuries has meant opportunities for some of New York's younger players. Rookies Chad Kolarik and Ryan McDonagh had their first NHL points on Thursday, and Tortorella said he's been pleased with the way his kids have stepped up.
"When guys get hurt it gives other people the chance to step up, and several of these younger players have done exactly that," Tortorella said.