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Rangers must contend with pesky Flames to start trip

by Tal Pinchevsky

RANGERS (41-29-4) at FLAMES (30-36-7)


Last 10: New York 7-3-0; Calgary 5-5-0

Season series: Despite being all but eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, the Calgary Flames have given some of the NHL's best teams all they can handle. They hope to continue to do that when they face one of the League's hottest teams, the New York Rangers, for the second and final time. New York beat Calgary 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 15 at Madison Square Garden.

Big story: The Flames will look to play spoiler against the Rangers, who are riding a season-high five-game win streak as they open a four-game road swing. It's a role the Flames have enjoyed lately, beating the San Jose Sharks on Monday and playing the Anaheim Ducks close in a 3-2 loss on Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Rangers: After back-to-back regulation road wins last weekend against the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, two teams in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Rangers earned a 3-1 win Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, moving three points ahead of their Metropolitan Division rival for second place.

After facing Philadelphia, the Rangers announced on Friday that forward Chris Kreider was out indefinitely after having hand surgery. Against the Flyers, Martin St. Louis filled in admirably for Kreider on the top line with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. He's likely to stay there for the time being.

Philadelphia holds two games in hand on New York and plays three of its next four at home, so the Rangers are hoping to gain some valuable points on this trip.

"To get into the playoffs now, it's so hard. You've got to play some real solid hockey," Vigneault said after the win on Wednesday. "That's what we're doing right now."

Flames: The Flames refuse to go quietly into the night despite having little chance of qualifying for the postseason. They've won seven of their past 12, a run that includes one-goal defeats to the Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, all of whom are in the thick of the playoff chase.

"We're not going to get comfortable because it's the end of the year," coach Bob Hartley said after practice Thursday. "I'm already in mode for next year and we still did lots of good things. But until you're a playoff team you can't get a passing grade. That's exactly the message that we're trying to get to them."

Calgary held a short practice Thursday and it looks like rookie forward Kenny Agostino will be back in the lineup after sitting against Anaheim. He skated in practice with fellow rookie forwards Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne.

Who's hot: Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of his past 10 games, posting an 8-2-0 record with a 1.70 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh has three goals and seven points on his current five-game point streak. … Flames forward Jiri Hudler has two goals and three points in four games since returning from a lower-body injury. Center Matt Stajan has five points in his past three games.

Injury report: Kreider (hand) and defenseman John Moore (concussion) are out for New York. … Calgary is without defenseman Dennis Wideman (upper body) and forwards David Jones (shoulder) and Markus Granlund (upper body).

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