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Rangers-Senators Preview @NHL

Coming off one of their worst defensive efforts of the season, the New York Rangers should be happy to face a struggling offensive club they've already beaten this week.

The Ottawa Senators will try to snap a six-game losing streak on Saturday when they host the Rangers, who earned a comeback victory in the teams' first meeting.

With three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers (14-6-2) allowed an Eastern Conference-low 190 goals last season and rank third in the NHL with a 2.27 team goals-against average this season.

But Lundqvist allowed five goals on 17 shots in a 6-3 loss to Vancouver at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, getting pulled for the first time this season less than six minutes into the second period.

"This happens to every team," Rangers coach Tom Renney told the team's official Web site. "The big thing will be how we respond to it. I think that's a wonderful opportunity if we are mature enough as a team to take it for what it is."

Backup Stephen Valiquette stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief of Lundqvist, and it's unclear if Lundqvist will be back in net against Ottawa. He had allowed two or fewer goals in his last 12 starts before Wednesday, and still ranks in the NHL's top 10 with a 2.15 GAA.

Lundqvist has a 2.37 GAA in 11 career starts against Ottawa, but is 4-7-0.

Perhaps a bigger concern for the Rangers is offense. They've managed only six goals in their last three games, and Scott Gomez - second on the team in points per game - has missed the last four contests with a leg injury and is unlikely to return on Saturday.

They only scored once against Ottawa (6-9-4) on Monday, but Fredrik Sjostrom's third-period tally sent the game to a shootout, where Nikolai Zherdev scored to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory.

The Senators' offensive problems have been more severe. They've scored two or fewer goals in each of their last six games with only seven total tallies over that span.

Still, the team feels the end of the skid is close. The last two defeats have come in shootouts, including a 3-2 loss to Montreal on Thursday.

"We're not happy with it, but I think the way we played is encouraging," Jarkko Ruutu said after that game. "If we keep working like we did tonight, playing the way we did, we're going to get rewarded for it.

"You can't bury your head and feel sorry for yourself. It's actually the opposite, we should feel a lot better than we did a couple of games ago."

Ottawa has also felt good about the play of goaltender Alex Auld of late. Auld has drawn five straight starts for the Senators, and though he is just 0-3-2 over that span, he still has a 2.54 GAA in those games and a 2.12 mark for the season.

While with Boston, Auld kept the Rangers scoreless through overtime in a 1-0 loss on March 9. He's 1-0-2 with a 0.95 career GAA against New York.

The Senators have also fared well in the series, going 6-1-1 in their last seven matchups with New York, although the Rangers earned a 5-2 win in their last visit to Scotiabank Place on Dec. 1, 2007.

EA SPORTS NHL09 Game Predictions
NY Rangers 1
Ottawa 2
Three Stars
G: 2 | A: 0

G: 0 | A: 2

G: 0 | A: 2


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