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Rangers try to extend success at Florida

by John Kreiser /

RANGERS (22-14-3) at PANTHERS (16-17-2)

TV -- MSG (HD); FS-Florida (HD)

Last 10 -- New York 6-2-2; Florida 5-3-2

Season series -- The Rangers are making their second and final visit of the season to South Florida -- they won 3-0 on Nov. 26. Florida comes to New York on Jan. 25 and March 26.

Big story -- The Rangers complete a two-game weekend swing through Florida after rallying to earn a point in a 2-1 overtime loss at Tampa Bay. The Panthers, who are 13 points behind the sixth-place Rangers and 10 points out of a playoff berth in the East, also got a point in their last game -- but they weren't nearly as happy. Florida blew an early 2-0 lead to Montreal Friday night and lost 3-2 in OT.

Team Scope:

New York -- The best news for the Rangers was the fact that the tying goal against the Lightning was scored by Marian Gaborik, who beat rookie Cedrick Desjardins with 45.6 seconds left in regulation. It was just his third goal in 11 games. Though the Rangers hold sixth in the East, it's tough to imagine them making the playoffs without more contributions from their top scorer.

"It's important that he scored the goal, but we're going to need more out of him," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Hopefully, that will help with his confidence. He's an important guy for us, and we're going to need him as this gets tougher in the second half of the year."

Florida -- The Panthers are still several games away from the midpoint of the season, but they need to get on a roll if they hope to avoid another playoff-less spring. They can't afford games like Friday, when they got goals by Stephen Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov in a 1:45 span of the second period, but generated little offense the rest of the way and saw the Canadiens rally and win in overtime.

"We have to be a little smarter the way we manage the game when it's 2-0. We say that over and over, we just got to do it," said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who made 45 saves and earned the Panthers one point. "But we say that over and over, we just have to do it."

Who's hot -- Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky has 5 points in his last four games. … Weiss has 3 goals in his last four games.

Injury report -- The Rangers are without forwards Derek Boogaard (shoulder), Eric Christensen (knee) and Vaclav Prospal (knee). Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (groin) has sat out the last four games, but was struggling before the injury. … The return of Cory Stillman, Rostislav Olesz and Radek Dvorak from injuries was bad news for Florida forward Steven Reinprecht, who was placed on waivers.

Stat pack -- The Panthers' latest power-play slide has seen them score just once in their last 19 tries. Florida is last in the NHL with an 8.9 percent success rate with the extra man, including only five power-play goals at home. … The Rangers have outscored the Panthers 9-2 in their last three visits. … The Rangers are 9-0-0 this season in the second game of back-to-backs.

Puck drop -- The Panthers are likely to have another big crowd at the BankAtlantic Center, but how many will be rooting for the home team is another question. Friday's game against Montreal drew more than 20,000 fans, but thousands were rooting for the Canadiens, who customarily make a swing through Florida during the holidays. With lots of transplanted New Yorkers in South Florida, the Rangers also figure to have plenty of support.

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