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Staal expected back when Rangers visit Panthers

by Jon Lane

RANGERS (19-19-2) at PANTHERS (15-20-5)


Last 10: New York 4-5-1; Florida 6-4-0

Season series: The New York Rangers and Florida Panthers will play for the final time this season. New York has won the first two games, most recently a 5-2 victory Nov. 27 at Madison Square Garden.

Big story: Rangers defenseman Marc Staal will be in the lineup after missing 10 games due to a concussion. Staal skated Monday for the third straight day on the second pair with rookie Conor Allen.

"I talked to [coach Alain Vigneault] and said I wanted to play, and he said I'm in," Staal said. "[Missing time stinks]. It's frustrating. You want to be out there helping the team win games. I'm excited to just get back out there and be a part of it on the ice again."

New York arrived to Sunrise, Fla., after splitting the first two games on its five-game road trip and will face a Panthers team that snapped a three-game winless streak Sunday with a 4-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Although New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist has allowed three or more goals in eight straight starts after the Rangers' 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, he made a few spectacular saves in the third period to preserve the victory.

Lundqvist made 15 of his 37 saves in the final 20 minutes and will be back in goal for the Rangers on Tuesday. He is 11-15-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

"I take every start now as an opportunity for me to turn this around," Lundqvist said. "I know it's going to take more than one game, but I have to stay positive."

Panthers: Florida's win against the Canadiens gave the Panthers an 8-4-0 record in their past 12 games. Flying under the radar has been Sean Bergenheim, who was one of four goal-scorers against Montreal and has four goals his past three games and eight in his past 16.

After missing all of last season and the first three weeks of this season recovering from a series of surgeries to his abdomen, groin and hip area, Bergenheim has looked comfortable playing with Aleksander Barkov and Brad Boyes.

"In the beginning of the season, the first 10 games, you can basically forget,'' Bergenheim told the Miami Herald. "My skating wasn't there, but it got a little bit better. I still have a ways to go, still feel my first few steps could be stronger. But I've come a long way. The training staff has been great. It's only going to get better.''

Who's hot: Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot extended his career-high point streak to seven games (four goals, three assists) with his game-winning goal Sunday. Mats Zuccarello has three goals and seven points his past six games. … Barkov has three goals and five assists in his past nine games for the Panthers.

Injury report: Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman (wrist) skated Monday and will play. Right wing Ryan Callahan (sprained knee) skated wearing a non-contact jersey and could return sometime in mid-January. … Panthers left wing Scottie Upshall (upper body) is day-to-day. Center Jesse Winchester (hand) and defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Erik Gudbranson (orbital bone surgery) are on injured reserve.

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