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Rangers return home to host struggling Senators

by Mike Battaglino

SENATORS (32-31-14) at RANGERS (43-30-5)


Last 10: Ottawa 4-5-1; New York 7-2-1

Season series: The New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators 8-4 on March 18, a game that was tied 2-2 late in the second period. With that, New York won two games at Ottawa by a combined 12-5.

Big story: The Rangers continue to hold off the Philadelphia Flyers for second place in the Atlantic Division with the Flyers having two games in hand. New York leads Philadelphia by four points and can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one point here.

"Once we get a check mark by our name (for clinching), if we have an opportunity to get home ice, we're going to work on that," coach Alain Vigneault said Thursday following a 3-2 shootout loss at the Colorado Avalanche.

"I do think right now we have an opportunity; we still haven't gotten there. Our first goal is to get the checkmark by our name. That's what we're hoping, that's what we're working for, and hopefully we can do that come Saturday."

Team Scope:

Senators: Ottawa travels to play one night after allowing seven unanswered goals at home in a 7-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens that the Senators led 3-0.

"It's probably a lot of things that are the reasons why it doesn't go our way," forward Mika Zibanejad told the team website. "I don't know, we've got to live through this but we have a game tomorrow to get to. Think about this game tonight and wake up tomorrow and focus on tomorrow's game."

Goalie Robin Lehner may start after Craig Anderson played the entire game Friday.

"I just felt with the circumstances, it was the right thing to do," coach Paul MacLean said of not pulling Anderson.

Ottawa remains mathematically eligible for the playoffs; it is seven points out of the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot with five games remaining.

Rangers: After allowing a last-minute goal and losing in the shootout Thursday, New York finished a four-game road trip 2-1-1.

"It wasn't perfect," Vigneault said, "but I thought our guys battled hard, gave ourselves a chance in every game. Come out with five points on a pretty tough trip. So, take the five points and go home."

The Rangers play three home games before the season finale at the Montreal Canadiens a week from Saturday. New York is 18-16-4 at Madison Square Garden, 25-14-1 on the road, where it has played 10 of its past 13 games.

"You try not to look too much around you right now (in the standings)," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist told Blueshirts United. "You're just worried about yourself and take care of your own work here. But [home-ice advantage] is important, to try to go for that. It could play a big part for us moving forward in the playoffs. So we're going to do our best here to try to win the rest of the games and put ourselves in a good position."

Who's hot: Senators forward Kyle Turris has eight points in his past seven games. Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch has a three-game point streak and six points in seven games. Zibanejad has four points in his past four. Forward Zack Smith scored twice Friday. … Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has five points in a three-game streak. Forward Benoit Pouliot has four in a four-game streak. Lundqvist has allowed one or zero goals in five of his past nine games.

Injury report: Senators forward Ales Hemsky (upper body) did not play in the third period Friday, but it appears he'll be in the lineup. Forward Jason Spezza (groin) returned after missing two games. Defensemen Jared Cowen (lower body) and Colin Greening (lower body) are out. Forward Bobby Ryan (sports hernia) will not return this season. .… Rangers defenseman John Moore (concussion) played Thursday for the first time since March 21. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) is aiming to return before the playoffs start. Forward Chris Kreider (hand) is out.

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