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Preview: Lightning at Rangers

Tampa Bay continues push toward playoff spot with visit to New York

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

LIGHTNING (32-26-9) at RANGERS (44-23-2)

7 p.m. ET; MSG, SUN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV


Lightning team scope

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 3-0-1 in their past four games, 10-2-3 in their past 15 and three points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Goalie Peter Budaj will make his second start since getting traded from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26. Budaj allowed four goals on 34 shots in a 5-2 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 3. Coach Jon Cooper said he chose Budaj because Andrei Vasilevskiy is in a good rhythm starting every 2-3 days and they don't want to mess it up. "We've got him in a really good groove here, there's no sense in breaking that groove because there is a lot of games left he still has to play," Cooper said. The Lightning could have five rookies in the lineup: forwards Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne and Gabriel Dumont, and defenseman Jake Dotchin. Point, who has been in the NHL all season, is the Lightning's No. 1 center because Tyler Johnson will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury and Steven Stamkos is still rehabbing from knee surgery. Gourde, who scored a shorthanded goal in a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday, is the No. 2 center. Erne is playing left wing on the third line. Dumont is centering the fourth line because Cedric Paquette will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Dotchin is playing on the top defense pair with Victor Hedman. "The part that is tough about this is we don't have any margin for error," Cooper said. "On the other side of things the guys who have stepped in … they're all contributing. The tough thing is going to be able to sustain this, especially in a back to back now against two teams that are playing pretty well. So we'll get to see where we're at."


Rangers team scope

The New York Rangers went 3-1-0 on their four-game road trip, improving their road record to an NHL-best 25-9-0. The problem is they have struggled at home of late. They are 0-3-1 in their past four games at Madison Square Garden, including losing the past three in regulation, and 19-14-2 at home this season. "Road or home, it's the same thing, there's always tons of Rangers fans in the stands when we're on the road," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I know we have a good record. We've got to do the same thing at home." The Rangers did not have a morning skate following a 4-1 win at the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, their first game since goalie Henrik Lundqvist was ruled out for 2-3 weeks with a muscle strain in his hip. Goalie Antti Raanta made 23 saves. Center Derek Stepan scored to end a 23-game goal drought. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh had two goals, including one shorthanded, and center Kevin Hayes had a goal and an assist. In addition, left wing Michael Grabner had two assists. "I thought our group played a real strong game," Vigneault said. 


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Jonathan Drouin -- Yanni Gourde -- Alex Killorn

Adam Erne -- Byron Froese -- Vladislav Namestnikov

J.T. Brown -- Gabriel Dumont -- Luke Witkowski

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison -- Anton Stralman

Brayden Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Peter Budaj

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Greg McKegg

Injured: Tyler Johnson (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), Ryan Callahan (hip surgery), Steven Stamkos (knee surgery)


Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider -- Derek Stepan -- Mats Zuccarello

Pavel Buchenvich -- Mika Zibanejad -- Rick Nash

Michael Grabner -- Kevin Hayes -- J.T. Miller

Tanner Glass -- Oscar Lindberg -- Jimmy Vesey

Marc Staal -- Ryan McDonagh

Nick Holden -- Brendan Smith

Brady Skjei -- Steven Kampfer

Antti Raanta

Magnus Hellberg

Scratched: Matt Puempel, Brandon Pirri, Adam Clendening

Injured: Henrik Lundqvist (hip), Jesper Fast (upper body), Kevin Klein (back spasms), Dan Girardi (ankle)


Status report

Cooper said Namestnikov is a possibility to play against the Rangers. He did regular line rushes in the morning skate, an indication that he will be in. He missed the game Saturday with a lower-body injury. … Froese will make his Lightning debut after getting recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Monday. He was acquired in the trade that sent Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 27. … Vasilevskiy, who made 32 saves Saturday, is expected to start at the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. ... Forward Matthew Peca was sent back to Syracuse.


Who's hot

Kucherov has 18 points, including 10 goals, in his past nine games. … Hedman has 20 points, including six goals, in his past 17 games. … Hayes has three points, including two goals, in his past three games. … Kreider has five points (three goals, two assists) in his past five games. Stepan has three points (goal, two assists) with 14 shots on goal in his past two games. … McDonagh has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past four games.

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