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Rangers return home to face first-place Panthers

by Brian Compton /
PANTHERS (16-8-5) at RANGERS (16-6-4)

: FS-Florida (HD), MSG (HD)

Last 10: Florida 6-2-2; New York 6-3-1.

Season Series: This is the second of four meetings between the teams. Florida earned a 2-1 victory against the Rangers on Nov. 23 at the BankAtlantic Center. Tomas Fleischmann assisted on both of the goals for the Panthers.

Big Story: Playing just outside Fort Lauderdale, the Panthers don't exactly have too many opportunities to hold practices outside. That's why they took full advantage to do so as they skated in New York's Central Park on Saturday at Lasker Rink.

"We felt that there's no place more special to be than New York City around the Christmas holidays and we wanted to do something special, so we came out here to Central Park," Florida coach Kevin Dineen told "You can just tell how much fun the guys are having. We're having a tough time getting them off the ice."

Team Scope:

Panthers: Florida has earned points in four straight games (3-0-1) entering Sunday's action. The Panthers came up just a bit short in their bid for a four-game winning streak as they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at Buffalo on Friday night. The loss denied Florida an opportunity to leapfrog Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference standings.

"It was disappointing we lost, but the disappointment we feel is positive," said goalie Scott Clemmensen, who has started three of the last four games. "We had won three games in a row, so it was a good point. You knew it was the type of game that one little thing was going to make a big difference."
Rangers: Special teams came up big again for the Blueshirts on Saturday night, as they scored a pair of shorthanded goals en route to a 4-1 win at Buffalo. Carl Hagelin scored a man down midway through the second before captain Ryan Callahan added one of his own less than seven minutes later. Martin Biron made 32 saves against his former club and helped the Rangers earn the 2,500th win in franchise history.

"It's a lot of fun to play here," said Biron, who played 300 games for the Sabres. "There's always a lot of energy and always a high-tempo game. And you want to play well against old teammates."

Who's Hot: Jason Garrison continues to be a fantastic story. The Panthers' defenseman tallied his ninth goal of the season Friday night after having five all of last season, while Fleischmann has a four-game point streak. … Hagelin's shorthanded goal was one of two tallies Saturday night. He is 3-3-6 in eight games since being promoted from AHL Connecticut. Callahan, meanwhile has goals in back-to-back contests and is 3-1-4 in his last five.

Injury Report: Florida is likely to be without Matt Bradley (upper body), Scottie Upshall (hip), Marcel Goc (upper body) and Mark Cullen (ribs). … Marc Staal (concussion), Wojtek Wolski (groin), Michael Sauer (concussion) and Mike Rupp (knee).

Stat Pack: The Panthers will play their 30th game of the season Sunday night. Eighteen of those contests will have been played on the road. … Despite the fact they had lost two straight prior to Saturday's win, the Rangers are 13-3-1 over their last 17 games.

Puck Drop: "It's too early to be looking at the standings, but it credits our hard work and how far we've come as a team. This is definitely better than the alternative." -- Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison

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