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Rangers set to host Preds

by Dave Lozo
PREDATORS (31-22-5) at RANGERS (26-26-7)

Last 10: Nashville 2-6-2; New York 3-7-0.

Season Series: This is the first only meeting of the season. The last time the Predators came to Madison Square Garden, they beat the Rangers 3-0 on Oct. 18, 2006. Tomas Vokoun had the shutout.

Big Story: There's really no layers to this game. There's not much history between these teams, so it's going to be important for the Predators and Rangers, who are both battling for playoff spots in their respective conferences, to get themselves up for this game.

Team Scope:

Predators: If they were in the Eastern Conference, they could potentially be battling the Buffalo Sabres for a division title. But in the West, they are hanging onto the eighth spot with many formidable opponents chasing them. The Predators opened their four-game road trip on Long Island on Tuesday and fell to the Islanders 4-3.

The loss extended the Preds' road losing streak to five games. Nashville has allowed one more goal than it has scored this season, yet the Preds have won 9 more games than they have lost in regulation.
Rangers: After dropping 7 of 8, they came up with an emphatic 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils in which Henrik Lundqvist made 41 saves. Is it the start of a strong push toward the Olympic break, or will the Rangers revert to their lackluster ways against an unfamiliar opponent? As long as Lundqvist is on top of his game, the Rangers have a chance.

"I just tried to battle the last two weeks," said Lundqvist. "I have been working hard. It was an intense game, fun to play in and big relief to get a win at home. It is a big one for us to get, in a lot of ways."

All that could be for naught if Marian Gaborik can't go. He was hurt in practice Tuesday when he collided with Lundqvist and had the goaltender's skate blade cut through his knee. He's likely a game-time decision.

Who's Hot: Predators defenseman Cal O'Reilly has just eight points this season, but he has a goal and 3 assists in his last two games.

Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan has contributed a goal and an assist in each of his last two games.

Injury Report: Predators center Marcel Goc is questionable with an upper-body injury.

Outside of Gaborik, the Rangers are healthy.

Stat Pack: Gaborik has six goals in the last five games. ... Rangers coach John Tortorella was not with the team Tuesday, as he was attending the funeral for Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke's son, Brendan. ... The Predators are 6-4-0 in the second half of games on back-to-back days.
Puck Drop: The Rangers can climb as high as seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a win or fall to 11th with a loss, depending on the outcome of other games Wednesday.
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