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Senators put home streak on line against Rangers

by Eric Goodman
RANGERS (28-27-7) at SENATORS (36-23-4)

Last 10 -- New York 4-6-0; Ottawa 8-2-0

Season series -- This is the fourth and final meeting of the 2009-10 regular season between the clubs. New York split its home series with the Sens at Madison Square Garden, while managing a 2-1 shootout win at Ottawa on Nov. 14, 2009.

Big story -- The Senators’ recent 11-game winning streak began with a 2-0 victory over the Rangers on Jan. 14. Ottawa has won three of four since that streak ended with a 5-0 loss at Toronto on Feb. 6. The Rangers won three of their last four before breaking for the 2010 Olympics.

Team Scope:

Rangers -- The Blueshirt players faired well at the Olympics -- starting with Olli Jokinen, who scored twice on Saturday to help his native Finland capture the bronze medal over Rangers teammate Marian Gaborik and the Slovakian national team. The solid showing continued on Sunday when Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury brought home the silver medal to the United States after a 3-2 overtime loss against Team Canada.

But now that the NHL season is back in full swing, the Rangers will have to figure out how to fight their way out of 10th place in the Eastern Conference and back into the playoff picture. New York took a step in the right direction when it claimed goalie Alex Auld off waivers from Dallas on Saturday to serve as the backup to starter Henrik Lundqvist. This should provide some much needed insurance considering that Auld once won 33 games with the Vancouver Canucks back in the 2005-06 season.

Senators --
While the Sens players were only able to bring back one medal from Vancouver (a bronze from Finnish winger Jarkko Ruutu), they are decidedly in a much better position than the Rangers. Thanks to its impressive winning streak, Ottawa has now won 14 of its last 16 games and is currently the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.

Who’s hot --
Vinny Prospal has tallied points (5-3-8) in four of his last five games for the Rangers. … Sens goalie Brian Elliot was 12-2-0 in his last 14 games before the two-week break for the Olympics.

Injury report --
Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto was cut in the midsection by the skate blade of the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin on Feb. 12 and was not in the lineup for the Feb. 14 game against Tampa Bay. … Before the Olympic break, Ottawa was still without defensemen Erik Karlsson (shoulder) and Chris Campoli (left knee) and forward Nick Foligno (broken leg).

Stat pack --
The Senators are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak at home, leaving them just two wins away from tying last season’s streak of nine straight victories at Scotiabank Place.

Puck drop --
While Ottawa (76 points) certainly built itself a nice cushion in the overall standings with its recent strong play, it will have to continue turning up the heat in order to keep the Northeast Division’s second-place Buffalo Sabres (75 points) at bay. The Rangers, on the other hand, have very little margin for error as their 63 points guarantees that they will remain in a dog fight with at least five other clubs for the final three playoff berths in the East. Look for both teams to come out with high intensity considering that this is the first game for either club since going on a two-week hiatus for the Olympics.

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