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Rangers wrap up road trip against Avalanche

by Tal Pinchevsky

RANGERS (43-30-4) at AVALANCHE (48-21-6)


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

Season series: The New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche meet for the second and final time. Ryan Callahan, who has since been traded to the Tampa Bay Lighting, had two goals and an assist when the Rangers beat Colorado 5-1 at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 4.

Big story: Colorado is already assured a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Rangers are on the verge of clinching a postseason berth. But each team needs this game to help it earn home ice in the opening round.

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York got a big road win Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The 3-1 victory gave coach Alain Vigneault his second win against the team he coached for seven seasons. Forward Martin St. Louis also scored his first goal since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 5. The shorthanded goal came off a fine cross-ice pass from Rick Nash.

The win moved the Rangers one step closer to clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it came at a price. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh's breakout season came to a momentary halt when he sustained an upper-body injury following a late-game hit from Alexandre Burrows. The Rangers classified the injury as "not serious" and McDonagh stayed with the team rather than go back to New York. John Moore appears close to returning from a concussion and could fill McDonagh's slot in the lineup in the finale of a four-game trip.

New York remains three points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for second in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers hold two games in hand and appear likely to meet the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

Avalanche: Colorado is struggling with a major injury of its own; leading scorer Matt Duchene is out for four weeks with a lower-body injury sustained on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. In his first game taking over as the center on the Avalanche's top line, Nathan MacKinnon struggled early. But the rookie flourished after being moved to a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny. MacKinnon set up Landeskog's tying goal late in the third period and assisted his power-play winner in overtime, giving Colorado its fourth straight win.

"They played so well together. I thought with Lanny and Pauly they were more dangerous," coach Patrick Roy said. "He brings so much speed with Lanny on that line."

Colorado sits three points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for second in the Central Division with a game in hand. Like the Rangers and Flyers in the Metropolitan, Colorado's first-round matchup against the Blackhawks appears to be set.

Who's hot: Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has four points in his past two games and Benoit Pouliot has three points on his current three-game point streak. … Landeskog has five goals and Stastny has five points during their respective four-game point streaks. MacKinnon has four points, all assists, in his past four games.

Injury report: McDonagh is unlikely to play for the Rangers and forward Chris Kreider (hand) is out. … Duchene is out and forwards Alex Tanguay (hip) and PA Parenteau (knee) are done for the season.

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