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Rangers, Senators hope to snap slides

by Tal Pinchevsky

RANGERS (36-29-4) at SENATORS (28-26-13)


Last 10: New York 4-5-1; Ottawa 3-5-2

Season series: It's the second game between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators. New York won their first game 4-1 at Canadian Tire Centre on Jan. 18, with Derek Stepan totaling a goal and two assists.

Big story: Both teams are struggling entering this game. New York has dropped three of four and Ottawa has lost five of six. The Rangers entered play Monday holding on to the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ottawa's chances at a playoff spot are dwindling; they entered play Monday seven points behind New York with two games in hand.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Despite his team's recent struggles Rangers coach Alain Vigneault maintains that his team is playing good hockey and should be OK. He voiced that confidence following New York's 1-0 loss against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. New York outshot the Sharks 41-29 but could not beat goaltender Antti Niemi.

Against one of the NHL's elite teams New York dominated for lengthy stretches, including a first period in which they outshot the Sharks 20-11 but trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.

"Offensively we did everything but finish," Vigneault said. "We had some very good looks but we couldn't pull the trigger. We played a good game; we're playing some good hockey. We'll just put this behind us and move on for the next one. You've got to believe if we keep playing this way we'll be all right."

After being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks at the NHL Trade Deadline, defenseman Raphael Diaz could see his first action as a Ranger. Diaz skated Monday alongside Marc Staal. Staal's regular defense partner, Anton Stralman, has struggled since the NHL resumed play following the end of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, something Vigneault acknowledged before the game Sunday.

Senators: A difficult weekend dealt a swift blow to Ottawa's hopes for a playoff berth. It started Saturday when the Senators gave away a three-goal lead with 3:22 remaining in regulation against the Montreal Canadiens. They then fell behind 3-0 at home Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche before Mika Zibanejad spoiled Semyon Varlamov's shutout bid with six seconds remaining in the game.

"You've got to win games," Senators captain Jason Spezza said after the loss Sunday. "We've got 15 games left. We're not going to throw in the towel. We're frustrated with this weekend. We knew it was an important weekend. But let's see if we can put something together. I've seen it done before."

The Senators did not skate Monday after the back-to-back games. There still is hope that starting goaltender Craig Anderson could be back soon. Anderson skated Saturday but is dealing with an upper-body injury that has kept him out since March 10. Robin Lehner starts again Tuesday, and the Senators will need to tighten up defensively; they entered the week 28th in the League in shots-allowed per game (34.4) and 29th in goals against per game (3.21).

Who's hot: Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has allowed two or fewer goals in four of his past five games, posting a .947 save percentage in that span. Stepan has 11 points in 10 games since the NHL resumed play. … Forward Ales Hemsky has seven points in five games since Ottawa acquired him at the trade deadline. Defenseman Erik Karlsson has four points, all assists, on his current three-game point streak. Spezza has eight points in his past four games.

Injury report: Anderson (upper body) remains out for Ottawa, but was on the ice Tuesday and is getting closer to a return. … New York has no reported injuries.

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