RANGERS (25-24-7) at KINGS (33-19-3)
Last 10: New York 3-7-0; Los Angeles 8-2-0
Season series: This is the second and final meeting between the cross-coast clubs. The Rangers took a 4-2 decision from the Kings back on Oct. 14 at Madison Square Garden. Vinny Prospal tallied two goals, while goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves to seal it for the Blueshirts.
Big Story: New York finally ended its five-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory at Colorado on Sunday, but has lost nine of its last 11 contests. Los Angeles has experienced the total opposite, sweeping its recent five-game road trip and winning its last six overall.
Rangers: It has been a series of ups and downs for the Blueshirts this year. After dropping the first game of the season to Pittsburgh, New York went on to win seven straight. However, the Rangers have managed only one other winning streak since then as they won four in a row in mid-December. Part of the reason for the inconsistent play might have had something to do with a core of newly-signed players having to adjust to their new surroundings.
New York must have been hoping to remedy that situation with the trade of struggling forwards Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins to Calgary late Monday in exchange for center Olli Jokinen and tough guy Brandon Prust. Jokinen should bring some much needed offensive spark to the Rangers as Kotalik and Higgins combined for 36 points this season while Jokinen, who is actually struggling when compared to his performances of the past, has 35.
Kings: Winners of its last six contests, Los Angeles is just a game behind Vancouver for the longest current winning streak in the West. The Kings trailed the Devils 2-0 early in the second period on Sunday in Newark but managed to score the next three goals, including two with under two minutes to play in regulation, to take the 3-2 win and return home with a perfect record from their trip out east.
"Well, this road trip has been pretty exciting," coach Terry Murray said. "You get five wins on the road at this time of the year, the desperation that everybody is playing with is pretty remarkable."
Who’s hot: Right wing Marian Gaborik has scored in two straight games for the Rangers, including a hat trick at Colorado on Sunday. The forward is fourth in the League in goals scored with 33. … Goalie Jonathan Quick has been in net for all six games of the Kings’ current winning streak and has a 2.16 goals against average over that span.
Injury report: The Rangers sat Lundqvist for the past two games due to illness. Rookie Chad Johnson started both contests and got his first NHL win at Colorado. … For the Kings, defenseman Davis Drewiske had hoped to return to action on Sunday but was not in the lineup, while forwards Justin Williams (leg/ankle) and Andrei Lokitonov (shoulder) remain out.
Stat pack: In the two games the Rangers had won before their recently ended five-game losing streak, they outscored opponents 14-4. However, the score differential during the losing streak was 20-5.
Puck drop: The Kings are undoubtedly the hotter team going into this matchup, but even they know that there is room for improvement. Despite the five-game winning streak on the road and owning the League’s best road record at 19-10-1, Los Angeles is a humble 14-9-2 at Staples Center.
"Right from the start of the road trip, if somebody would say, 'You guys are going to be 4-1,' I think everyone would pretty much take that," center Anze Kopitar said after Sunday’s win. "Being 5-0, it's obviously great. I think now it's time to bring that attitude and energy at home, because we've got to start winning some home games too."