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Rangers-Thrashers Preview

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GAME: New York Rangers (36-17-8) at Atlanta Thrashers (29-27-6).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The New York Rangers have had trouble scoring the past few games. That hasn't been the case when they've met the Atlanta Thrashers this season.

New York looks to avoid a third straight loss and stay in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division when it visits Atlanta.

The Rangers came out flying in their first contest after the Olympic break, scoring six goals at Philadelphia on March 2 to extend their winning streak to a season-high seven games.

New York, though, has since suffered back-to-back 2-1 losses, and had its lead over the Flyers in the Atlantic cut to two points after falling to Carolina on Monday. Philadelphia hosts the Eastern Conference-leading Hurricanes on Thursday.

"We're just not poised enough with the puck," said center Steve Rucchin, who scored against Carolina. "We're not managing the puck well and we're not taking advantage of what they've been giving us. Give credit to Carolina. There's a reason they're in first place."

The Rangers have outscored the Thrashers 11-4 in winning both matchups this season, with NHL leading-scorer Jaromir Jagr leading the way.

Jagr has a goal and three assists in those contests, and has 17 goals and 20 assists in 25 games against Atlanta. The 34-year-old forward leads the NHL with 42 goals and 91 points.

The Thrashers beat Florida 4-3 in a shootout on Monday for their fifth win in six games, with four of those victories coming by one goal. Atlanta, which hasn't qualified for the playoffs in the six-season history of the franchise, is in ninth place in the East.

"Every game is big for us," forward Slava Kozlov said. "Two points or one point, at the end of the season, those points are going to be important to us."

One player that has been a key for the Thrashers this season is leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, who has 39 goals and 77 points. Kovalchuk has two goals and three assists in Atlanta's first four games after the break, and seven goals in 13 career games against the Rangers.

STANDINGS: Rangers - 80 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division. Thrashers - 64 points, 3rd place, 26 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jagr, 42 goals and 91 points; Jagr and Martin Straka, 49 assists; Darius Kasparaitis, 85 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 39 goals; Marc Savard, 53 assists; Kovalchuk and Savard, 77 points; Andy Sutton, 106 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Rangers - Power play: 18.2 percent (61 for 336), 15th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.3 percent (313 for 367), 6th. Thrashers - Power play: 19.6 percent (81 for 413), 5th. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (304 for 384), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist (25-8-6, 2 SO, 2.08 GAA); Kevin Weekes (11-9-2, 2.85). Thrashers - Kari Lehtonen (12-10-0, 1, 2.78); Mike Dunham (4-4-1, 1, 2.79).

SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 24; Rangers, 6-3. At Atlanta, Jagr, Michael Nylander, Petr Prucha and Jason Ward each had a goal and an assist for New York.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 17-10-3 on the road; Thrashers - 16-11-4 at home.

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