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Rangers try to snap seven-game skid vs. Penguins

by Dave Lozo
RANGERS (26-27-7) at PENGUINS (36-22-2)

Last 10 -- New York 2-8-0; Pittsburgh 6-3-1

Season series -- The Penguins have won the first four of six meetings between the teams this season.

Big story -- The Rangers are on the verge of seeing their season slip away, while the Penguins could move into first place in the Atlantic Division with a win and a New Jersey loss tonight.

Team Scope:

Rangers -- No offense. It's been a problem all season, despite having Marian Gaborik's 35 goals pacing the club. But the Slovak star missed the Rangers' 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, and his status for tonight's game is up in the air.

Gaborik suffered a laceration to his right thigh in practice Tuesday, and the Rangers can't afford to be without him for an extended period of time. The Rangers are averaging the fifth-fewest goals per game in the League.

"Obviously he's one of the best offensive players in the world, and taking him out of anybody's lineup, it's going to hurt," captain Chris Drury said. "Certainly we're going to miss him for however long he is out."

Penguins -- After blowing a 4-2 lead and losing to the Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime, the Pens bounced back three days later by beating the New York Islanders 3-1 on Wednesday. Chris Kunitz, who had abdominal surgery this season, scored twice in the win.

"That's what you're going to see from him every night," captain Sidney Crosby said. "He battles, he plays hard and he's got a scoring touch, so he's dangerous when he gets it around the net."

Now the Rangers come to town, and the Pens have handled them recently, winning seven in a row against the Blueshirts dating to last season.

Who's hot --
Remember when critics were saying Evgeni Malkin wasn't playing as well this season as he had in the past? Well, he's in the middle of an 11-game points streak (10 goals, 12 assists) that has vaulted him into a tie for 12th in the League with 63 points. … Vinny Prospal has been a rare bright spot for the Rangers of late. He scored their only goal Wednesday and has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 games.

Injury report --
Rangers coach John Tortorella said Wednesday that he expects Gaborik to return tonight, but nothing is for sure as of yet. … Groin injuries for the Pens' Maxime Talbot and Eric Godard will keep them out of the lineup.

Stat pack -- The Rangers are 4-9-2 vs. the Atlantic Division. ... Henrik Lundqvist has posted a record of 0-3-0 with a 3.39 goals against average in three appearances vs. Pittsburgh this season. ... Drury is 2 points from 600 in his NHL career.

Puck drop -- The Olympic break is just days away, but the Rangers could be facing an impossible task if they don't pick up points in their last two games before the respite. After this game, they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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