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Rangers' St. Louis eager to break out of slump

by Brian Compton

TAMPA -- More than a month has passed since New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis scored a goal.

It's a trend that likely needs to change if the Rangers are going to return to the Stanley Cup Final, and a scoring boost they could use in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against St. Louis' former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

St. Louis scored 21 goals in 74 regular-season games, but he's come up empty through 14 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He hasn't scored since April 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Rangers managed to get through the first two rounds against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals without a goal from St. Louis. He has six assists this postseason, two of which came in a 6-2 loss in Game 2 against Tampa Bay on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

"I look at last game, the last two games, the first couple of shifts I get a chance in front of the goalie," St. Louis said Wednesday morning. "I don't know. When you don't have that swagger, sometimes you rush things and those are great chances. On the power play, a couple of tips … [if] we end up scoring on them … sometimes when things go your way, those find the back of the net.

"For me, it's trying to put myself in the position to be successful and making the most of it when I get the chance and maybe calm my mind, if you want to say it like that, at that particular time."

St. Louis' competitive nature has obviously created some frustration, but he said he believes the goals could come in bunches whenever the first one arrives. For the Rangers, who played an NHL-record 15 consecutive one-goal games dating to last year's Stanley Cup Final prior to Monday, the sooner the better.

"If I wasn't [frustrated], I don't think I'd still be playing," said St. Louis, who turns 40 next month. "You expect a lot out of yourself. I expect that out of myself. Sometimes you get in your own way a little bit and you're working too hard almost. When things are going well for you offensively, it's like the game is at a certain pace and you're comfortable with that pace. When you get a chance with a goalie, everything is clear. When you're struggling to score goals, you tend to rush things and it's not as clear. [But] you're one bounce away from making things a lot clearer."

Just like St. Louis, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is frustrated his veteran forward hasn't been able to score in the playoffs. But he said he's confident the approach St. Louis takes before each game will help him turn things around.

"Marty's an important player for our group," Vigneault said. "He's got a lot of experience, he's a great leader on the ice and I think it's safe to say that he thinks he can play at a higher level than he is right now. But he's trying real hard and as far as his preparation and his work ethic, I can't say a word.

"I'm confident, and I know he sees it the same way, if he gets one, he's going to get a couple. Hopefully it starts tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Kevin Hayes

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - James Sheppard - J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Ryan Bourque, Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers

Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)


Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos

Nikita Kucherov - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat

Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown - Brenden Morrow

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: None

Status update: Zuccarello, who skated earlier this week, did not participate in the morning skate Wednesday. He hasn't played since Game 5 of the first round against Pittsburgh.

Who's hot: Stepan has scored in three straight games. He leads the Rangers with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 14 postseason games. … Kreider has a point in each of the first two games of this series (one goal, one assist).


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