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Rangers must contend with Jets before break hits

by Brian Hunter
JETS (22-21-6) at RANGERS (30-12-4)


Last 10:
Winnipeg 3-6-1; New York 7-3-0

Season Series: Third of four meetings. The Rangers have taken the first two with backup goalie Martin Biron allowing just one goal in the process and posting a .980 save percentage. Marian Gaborik scored twice in the most recent matchup, a 3-0 win for New York at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6.

Big Story:
The Rangers will enter the All-Star break leading the Atlantic Division and can guarantee themselves the Eastern Conference lead as well with a win Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Jets: The teams ahead of Winnipeg haven't exactly been clicking on all cylinders of late, and as a result the Jets could have been position to tie for the Southeast Division lead had they won in Carolina on Monday night. Instead, the Jets surrendered a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes, spent the rest of the night trying to battle back, and ultimately fell short in a 2-1 loss. They did outshoot the Hurricanes by a 30-16 margin, but only Kyle Wellwood got a puck past Cam Ward, with 6:13 left in the second. Ward denied Wellwood on a breakaway in the waning moments to keep the Jets from forcing overtime.

"I thought Ward was very aggressive and came out ready to block pucks," coach Claude Noel said. "I thought he made some good saves. He was more fortunate on some, but that's what you get. We did everything but score."

Saturday afternoon's battle in Boston between the Eastern Conference's top-two teams came as advertised -- a thriller featuring a scoreless opening period, a second in which Ryan Callahan and Gaborik gave the Rangers leads only to have Bruins defensemen Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid respond to even the score, then a scoreless third, leading to overtime. That's when Ference drew a five-minute major and game misconduct for a charge on Ryan McDonagh, leading to Gaborik's second goal with 3.6 seconds remaining to give New York a 3-2 win and first place in the East.

"Going into the game it had a little bit extra feeling and, you know, a little bit motivation knowing you're playing a team that's right behind you in the conference, obviously defending Stanley Cup champions, too," Callahan said. "So the atmosphere in the room, the atmosphere on the ice was as close as you could get to a playoff feel this early in the season. But I thought the guys stepped up well, we handled ourselves through the ups and downs of the game and it's a big game for us."

Who's Hot:
Wellwood (1-6-7) and Tobias Enstrom (3-2-5) have five-game points streaks active for the Jets. Nik Antropov has 3 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. … Gaborik has 2 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak for the Rangers.

Injury Report: Winnipeg forward Evander Kane has missed the last two games with a concussion and is day-to-day. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (knee) is on injured reserve. … McDonagh is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained as the result of Ference's hit, which also drew a three-game suspension. Defensemen Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka (foot) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: The Jets held a 14-2 edge in shots during the third period of Monday's game, including 11-0 over the first 10 minutes. … The Rangers have been deadly this season when scoring first -- their .917 winning percentage (22-1-1) leads the NHL, while the 22 wins are tied for second.

Puck Drop:
New York's 64 points at this juncture of the season are the fourth-most in franchise history and just one behind what the 1993-94 Stanley Cup team had posted through 46 games. The 1970-71 (66 points) and 1971-72 (69 points) teams are the only others to have recorded more.

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