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Rangers, Lightning both looking to build off wins

by Dave Lozo
LIGHTNING (19-19-10) at RANGERS (23-19-7)

Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-4-1; New York 5-2-3

Season Series: This is the second of four meetings. The Lightning drubbed the Rangers, 5-1, on Nov. 27 in Tampa.

Big Story: It's officially that time of year when teams battling for playoff spots are taking special notice of games like this. The Rangers are sitting in seventh in the East with 53 points. The Lightning are trying to climb out of the bottom half of the conference. But with 48 points, they are just four points out of eighth.

Team Scope:

Lightning: It's been quite the average month for Tampa, which is 4-4-0 after Monday's 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Tuesday's game will be the sixth on the road in eight games for the Lightning, who will start a four-game homestand Thursday.

The Lightning will be without goalie Mike Smith, who has missed the last six games with head and neck problems. He was sent back to Tampa on Monday and won't be with the team in New York. Antero Niittymaki has taken over in net over that stretch and made 20 saves in Monday's win in Carolina.

"We just don't want this to continue to linger," Lightning athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said of Smith to the St. Petersburg Times.

Rangers: After scoring one goal in three games, the Rangers exploded for six goals over the final two periods of their 6-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday. They entered the second period down 2-0 and used some physical play to spark the offensive outburst.

"This was big," said Ryan Callahan, who scored two goals in the win. "It's not only a big character game for us, and scoring six goals, but to come back from 2-0 down at home, where we've been struggling, it was a good game for us goal-wise, but also it showed some character in the room here."

Coach John Tortorella just hopes that momentum can carry over to tonight.

"You never know what triggers it," Tortorella said. "The important thing is how you respond, and I thought we responded the correct way. Sometimes this year I don't think we responded in the correct way in those situations; tonight we did."

Who's Hot:
Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, both left off of Team Canada's Olympic roster, have been great since the Dec. 30 announcement. In the nine games since, St. Louis has 4 goals and 6 assists. Lecavalier has 3 goals and 6 assists.

For the Rangers, Brandon Dubinsky has been having a nice January. He has 3 goals and 6 assists in nine games this month.

Injury Report: Smith (neck, head) defenseman Matt Smaby (concussion) and left wing Todd Fedoruk (lower-body) are out for the Lightning. The Rangers are healthy.

Stat Pack:
Tampa Bay's win in Carolina was its first since November 2007, a span of eight games. ... The Lightning are just 1-5-0 in their last six games at MSG. ... Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a record of 10-5-2 with a 2.04 goals-against average and one shutout in 17 career regular season appearances vs. Tampa Bay

Puck Drop:
"He hasn't contacted me to inquire about that. That absolutely did not happen." -- Lightning GM Brian Lawton, when asked if Rangers GM Glen Sather contacted him about acquiring Vinny Lecavalier.

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