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Reeling Rangers set to host Hurricanes

by Dave Lozo

HURRICANES (15-11-1) at RANGERS (13-12-2)


Last 10: Carolina 6-4-0; New York 5-5-0.

Season series: This is the first of three meetings.

Big story: The Rangers are reeling, and a regulation loss to the Hurricanes would leave them at least four points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot with 20 games remaining. While the Rangers have lost three straight an four of five, Carolina has hit a rough patch of late as well. The Hurricanes let a 2-0 lead slip away in a 3-2 loss to Washington on Thursday, then were run out of the building in a 4-1 road loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday. Both of these teams need to jam on the brakes and end their losing ways quickly.

Team scope:

Hurricanes: Before those two losses, things were going pretty well in Carolina. The Hurricanes had won six of seven and three of four without goaltender Cam Ward, who is out long-term with a lower-body injury. But the Lightning continued their mastery against the Hurricanes, beating them for the third time in three tries.

"They've been strong against us," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "For a majority of the games, they seem to get that first goal which gives them that different look with their hockey club. They've done a good job shutting down our top guys, which hasn't happened too much this year in our games."

Rangers: They had won five of six after Rick Nash returned from a four-game absence due to an upper-body injury, but the offense has gone cold in three straight losses. After a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Rangers have just two goals in their last three games.

"It's gut check time pretty much," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We've got to figure out what's going on here and play with some serious desperation. We're falling in the standings here."

Who’s hot: In eight March games, Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin has four goals and nine assists. ... No one is hot right now for the Rangers, but captain Ryan Callahan has four goals and two assists in his past seven games.

Injury report: Ward and forward Chad LaRose (concussion) are out. Defenseman Joe Corvo left Saturday's game with a lower-body injury and did not return, putting his status up in the air. Forward Tuomo Ruutu (hip) has not played this season but there is a chance he could make his 2012-13 debut against the Rangers. ... New York’s Marc Staal (eye) is out indefinitely and Arron Asham (back) has not played in a month.

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