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Senators-Rangers Preview @NHLdotcom
Senators-Rangers Preview

GAME: Ottawa Senators (36-12-5) at New York Rangers (32-15-8).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

Having taken sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, the New York Rangers look to end their struggles against another division leader when they host the Ottawa Senators.

The Rangers have been outscored 22-5 in losing four straight to the Senators, including a 6-2 defeat on Dec. 26 in the only matchup this season, and have dropped eight of the last nine meetings.

While Ottawa leads the Northeast Division this season, New York broke out of a first-place tie atop the Atlantic with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

Jaromir Jagr's power-play goal 1:24 into the extra period moved the Rangers one point ahead of the Flyers. The win came five days after New York lost 3-2 in overtime to Philadelphia, which had a nine-point lead over the Rangers less than a month ago.

"I didn't really look at it as a fight for first place," said Jagr, who has 35 goals. "I just wanted to make sure our team was able to beat a good team."

New York, which has won just six of 18 games against teams in first or second place this season, hasn't been leading the division this late in a season since April 7, 1996. The Rangers haven't been to the playoffs since 1997 even though they consistently house one of the league's highest payrolls and a lineup filled with All-Stars.

Right wing Petr Sykora deflected a slap shot from Martin Rucinsky and scored with 41.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime Saturday for the Rangers, who have won three straight and seven of nine.

"I didn't think we were going to tie the game," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "But we did with a lucky bounce. We kept working hard the whole game. We came back and we deserved it."

Ottawa coach Bryan Murray knows this Rangers team is playing much better than the one his club easily defeated six weeks ago.

"We're going to see a very good hockey club in their building," Murray said. "The way they're playing, it should be a good game. They play really sound positionally and with lots of structure. On their power play, Jagr has to touch the puck. It's good when your best player controls the play."

New York, though, will be without one of its top scorers.

Rookie Petr Prucha, who scores on a league-high 26.3 percent of his shots, took a hit to his right knee Saturday and will be sidelined for three to four weeks. The 23-year-old right wing, who has scored 12 of his 25 goals on power plays, left the arena Saturday on crutches and will not be able to play for the Czech Republic at the Olympics.

Ottawa expects to have most of its roster available, with Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly expected to play. Fisher, third on the team with 18 goals, sat out Monday's 5-2 win over the Penguins due to the flu and Kelly left the game with a jaw injury suffered in a collision.

Peter Schaefer had two goals and an assist as the Senators won despite the top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza being held scoreless.

"Spez, Alfie and Heater have been unbelievable for us all year and it's pretty tough to get on the scoresheet every night," Schaefer said.

Dominik Hasek, who has allowed two goals or fewer in four of his last six starts (4-1-1), is expected to be back in net after backup Ray Emery made 22 saves to get his first win in more than a month on Monday.

STANDINGS: Senators - 77 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Rangers - 72 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Alfredsson, 34 goals and 73 points; Spezza, 44 assists; Chris Neil, 135 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 35 goals and 80 points; Jagr and Martin Straka, 45 assists; Darius Kasparaitis, 75 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 21.0 percent (69 for 328), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (282 for 331), 4th. Rangers - Power play: 17.0 percent (52 for 305), 19th. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (279 for 329), 7th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Hasek (27-8-4, 5 SO, 2.02 GAA); Emery (9-4-1, 1, 3.13). Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist (23-7-6, 2, 2.12); Kevin Weekes (9-8-2, 0, 3.04).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 26; Senators, 6-2. At Ottawa, Wade Redden had two goals and two assists for the Senators, who scored three power-play goals in the opening period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 15-7-4 on the road; Rangers - 17-6-5 at home.

Associated Press

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