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Slumping Hurricanes need victory vs. Rangers

by Mike Battaglino /

RANGERS (18-15-4) at HURRICANES (16-18-2)


Last 10: New York 5-3-2; Carolina 1-8-1

Season series: This is the second of three meetings, with the last April 25. The New York Rangers won 2-1 in a shootout on March 18.

Big story: The Carolina Hurricanes have gone 1-9-1 in their past 11 games, have the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference, yet sit just four points out of first place in the Southeast Division with games in hand.

"Our mindset, it's good, despite the situation we're in," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said Friday. "We just said, 'Hey, we're still in the game.' I give the guys a lot of credit. The leader guys are keeping these guys involved, they're engaged, they want to get this thing turned around."

The Rangers earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday -- giving them three out of four points in a home-and-home against the Eastern leaders and moving them into seventh place, four points from fifth and from 12th.

"We want to get four, but we'll take the three," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "That's because, I tell you guys all the time, we're just trying to grab points."

Team Scope:

Rangers: After an outburst of 10 goals in back-to-back straight wins, New York reverted to its preferred low-scoring style in its sixth 2-1 game of the season (4-1-1).

"That was huge for us, continuing, coming on the road here, playing another full game," defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. "But now we have keep moving forward, we can't look back and be satisfied with what we've done the last two games. We have a big game tomorrow night against Carolina, we have to keep looking to try to get two points and climb the standings."

A trade-deadline boost that led to a 6-1 win against the Penguins on Wednesday did not continue on the scoreboard, even with 35 shots -- including seven by Rick Nash, who scored New York's only goal.

"This time of year it's going to be tough to come by goals, and the offense I think we did a pretty good job of grinding, getting chances that way," forward Brian Boyle said. "We just have to find a way to put 'em in."

Hurricanes: Despite the 11-game slide that has seen Carolina outscored 42-17, including 14-4 in three games since winning March 30, Muller was optimistic at practice.

"You guys see the games," Muller told the media. "I think it's safe to say that for the majority of it, we're outplaying the opponent. It's just when we make some mistakes, we pay for it, and then we get fragile and then we get away from our game."

The Hurricanes have led in five of the nine games they've lost starting March 14.

"The errors [are what] we just have to tweak," Muller said. "When we're playing our system we're good, but we get off it [then] we're being a bit of a fragile team right now."

The Raleigh News & Observer reported the top line of Alex Semin, Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty was excused from practice Friday. Those three players have 33 even-strength goals; the rest of the team has 45.

Who's hot: The Rangers penalty kill is 9-for-9 in its past three games. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has not allowed more than two goals in nine straight games (.941 save percentage). Forward Derek Stepan has four points in his past three games. … Semin has six points in the past five games.

Injury report: Lundqvist may have suffered a hamstring injury during the shootout but said "I think we'll be fine" for Saturday. Defenseman Marc Staal (eye) and forward Derek Dorsett (broken clavicle) are out. … Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen (heel) is out for the season. Forward Tuomo Ruutu (groin) returned to play Thursday. Defensemen Justin Faulk (knee) and goalie Cam Ward (knee) are out.

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