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Rangers seek to end scoring slump vs. surging Blues

by Matt Cubeta
RANGERS (22-18-7) at BLUES (20-19-7)

Last 10 -- New York 4-2-4; St. Louis 3-5-2

Season series -- This is the first of two meetings between the teams. Last season, they met once with the Blues edging the Rangers at the Scottrade Center, 2-1 -- B.J. Crombeen scored the game-winner late in the third period.

Big story --
Will the Rangers finally end their scoreless drought? They have gone 144:23 without a goal following consecutive shutouts at Madison Square Garden. On the other side, the Blues are seeking their fourth straight win after shutting out the Wild 1-0 on Thursday night.

Team scope:

Rangers -- The Rangers are 8-2-4 in their last 14 games, but have been unable to find the back of the net in more than six periods. After an epic 1-0 shootout loss to Martin Brodeur and the Devils on Tuesday night, the Rangers were again shut out by a Brodeur on Thursday night. Ottawa rookie Mike Brodeur turned aside all 30 New York shots in his second NHL start as the Rangers lost 2-0.

While Henrik Lundqvist continues to shine on Broadway (he has stopped 77 of 78 shots over the last two outings), the offense will look to its sniper, Marian Gaborik, to snap this scoreless skid. Gaborik, who is tied for third in the NHL with 28 goals, has been held without a goal in four straight contests.

"We have to be more consistent, create more offense, and start scoring more goals," Gaborik said.

Blues --
The Blues may finally be getting comfortable with new coach Davis Payne. After losing seven straight games, St. Louis has won three straight following a 1-0 victory over the Wild on Thursday night. Chris Mason stopped 19 shots for his 19th career shutout and T.J. Oshie scored the game’s lone goal.

The shutout was Mason's first of the season and first since April 12, 2009. He also received plenty of help from his teammates, who blocked 13 shots, including defenseman Mike Weaver's game-high six blocked shots.

"A shutout, it goes on my stats, but it's definitely a team statistic in my opinion," Mason said. "The guys did a great job. I wouldn't have gotten this without the great play of our team."

Who's hot --
For the Rangers, Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in seven straight games, winning four of them. … David Backes has seven assists in his previous seven games for the Blues, while the newly formed line of Brad Boyes, Jay McClement and Alexander Steen has really clicked lately. Boyes has 3 assists and is a plus-4 in his last three games, McClement has 1 goal and 5 assists in his last four and Steen has 2 goals in his previous two games.

Injury report --
The Rangers are a healthy bunch right now -- Vaclav Prospal returned to the lineup this past Tuesday. … The Blues continue to be without left wing D.J. King due to right hand surgery. After missing one game with a lower-body injury, Andy McDonald returned to the lineup on Thursday night and had 15:47 of ice time against the Wild.

Stat pack -- A low-scoring game could be expected as New York ranks 25th in goals per game at 2.51, with St. Louis slightly ahead of them at 2.52. There could also be a shortage of power-play goals in this contest. The Rangers rank third in the NHL in penalty-kill percentage at 86.5 and the Blues are right behind them at 86.1 percent.
Puck drop --
While Lundqvist has been dominant and the Rangers have worked hard lately, one thing is certain: They need to snap this scoring drought if they want to win games and remain in the playoff hunt.

"I think it is frustrating for everybody because we worked pretty hard and played pretty solid defensively," Lundqvist said after Thursday's loss to Ottawa. "Again, four goals in four games is not going to win us games. When you don't score, if you make one bad mistake, it will cost you the game."

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