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Rangers try to maintain East lead as they visit Wild

by Dave Lozo
RANGERS (47-21-7) at WILD (31-34-10)


Last 10:
New York 5-5-0; Minnesota 3-7-0

Season Series:
This is the first and only meeting between the teams this season.

Big Story:
The Wild are eliminated from postseason contention, but the Rangers are continuing to lead the Eastern Conference by the slimmest of margins over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Only one point separates the Rangers and Pens, and if New York has any hope of staving off the blistering-hot Pens, beating teams like the Wild is very important.

Team Scope:

Rangers: John Tortorella didn't think it was a pretty win, but the Rangers picked up a 4-3 shootout victory in Toronto on Saturday to improve to 9-2-2 in the second half of back-to-back games this season.

Marian Gaborik scored twice, including a beauty off a great pass from Brad Richards, but Tortorella credited the win to the defense and penalty-killing unit.

"That was key -- that is what I liked best about tonight's game," he said. "I thought we were ugly as hell through a number of minutes. We have a lot of things to work on, but killing penalties, blocking shots … (that's how) we found a way to win a road game."

On Dec. 12, Minnesota led the NHL with a 20-7-3 record and 43 points. Since that point, the Wild are 11-27-7 and in the mix for a draft lottery spot in the League's bottom five in the standings.

They've dropped two straight, but have won two in a row at Xcel Energy Center. That's not much of a silver lining for the Wild, who lost Matt Cullen to a broken finger during a 3-0 loss in Washington on Saturday.

"I'm so sick of talking about injuries to be honest with you, it's ridiculous," coach Mike Yeo said. "We've still got to play hockey games. It stinks to lose Matt Cullen. It stinks we have guys out of the lineup, but we've got a job to do. Let's make sure we do it."

Who's Hot:
Richards has 6 goals and 13 assists in his last 16 games for the Rangers.

Injury Report: The Rangers recently lost Mats Zuccarello to a broken wrist. He had surgery over the weekend. … The Wild injury list is about as long as it gets. Besides Cullen, Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion/groin), Jarod Palmer (upper body), and Mike Lundin (sports hernia surgery) are on Minnesota’s IR. while Justin Falk, Niklas Backstrom, Jared Spurgeon, and Matt Kassian all missed the game against the Caps.

Stat Pack:
The Wild have allowed 10 power-play goals in 12 games this month. They have only been shorthanded 39 times, putting their PK at an abysmal 74.4 percent. The Rangers have just two power-play goals in their past 19 chances, one of which came off an end-to-end rush by Brad Richards.

Puck Drop:
"The last few weeks, it's been (just) OK. I haven't played great. Going from OK to great, that is sometimes the difference between winning and losing." -- Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, on his struggles in March

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