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Rangers-Predators Preview @NHL

The New York Rangers are out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 2008-09, while the Nashville Predators are tied for the last postseason spot in the West.

Both clubs look to improve their precarious situations Thursday night when they meet at the Sommet Center.

The Rangers (34-25-8) are coming off Monday's 3-0 road loss to Carolina, one of the teams they're chasing for a playoff berth. New York, which had a three-game winning streak snapped, is ninth in the conference and 3-2-1 since coach John Tortorella replaced the fired Tom Renney on Feb. 23.

"We're just not going to win if we don't score goals," Tortorella said. "We were still there going into the third period (on Monday), but I just don't think we were consistent with our forecheck. We didn't have the puck enough."

The Rangers are last in the East with 167 goals and have been shut out a conference-high seven times. They lost 3-0 in their last meeting with Nashville on Oct. 18, 2006.

The Predators (33-29-5) are looking to avoid a third consecutive loss after falling 2-1 in overtime to Washington on Tuesday, their second straight defeat since a season-high six-game winning streak. Nashville, though, in 6-1-2 in its last nine games and tied with Edmonton for seventh in the West, one point ahead of Minnesota and Dallas.

"We're in a big playoff race right now and it's going to come down to the very last game," goaltender Dan Ellis said. "You look at the standings from sixth to 12th place and everybody's in it right now. The other day we lost a game and we went down in the standings and then we didn't even play and we moved up a spot.

"That's the way the race is right now and it's important to get points every chance you get."

Ellis might get his first career start against the Rangers after making 42 saves Tuesday in place of Pekka Rinne, who was ruled out with flu-like symptoms. Ellis, though, is 1-6-1 with a 3.52 goals-against average in his last nine starts, getting pulled in one of them.

The Rangers are expected to have Henrik Lundqvist back in net after he was rested Monday in favor of Stephen Valiquette, who made 35 stops.

Lundqvist has won his last three starts - all under Tortorella - with a 2.00 GAA, the most recent a 39-save performance in a 4-3 win over East-leading Boston on Sunday. That winning streak has come after the All-Star went 1-4-2 with a 2.60 GAA in his previous seven games.

Lundqvist is 1-1-0 with a 2.04 GAA in two career starts against Nashville.

The Rangers will try to give whoever starts in net some offensive support. Left wing Markus Naslund was held without a goal for a second consecutive game Monday since a three-game goal streak.

Naslund is New York's leader with 21 goals in his first season with the club, but has scored once in his last 10 games against the Predators.

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