Heading into the All-Star break, the New York Rangers are still struggling to develop some consistency.
New York looks to rebound from a difficult loss and create some momentum heading into the time off when it hosts the stumbling Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday.
The Rangers (23-20-4) fell 1-0 to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, as Martin Brodeur made 26 saves and Brad Lukowich scored in the first period. The loss was New York's third in four games after winning four in a row from Dec. 30-Jan. 6.
Since their latest win streak, the Rangers have stumbled, allowing 12 goals and scoring only seven in the three defeats. The lone win in that span was a 3-1 victory over Boston last Saturday.
"I think we have moved forward to being a more complete team," said Rangers coach Tom Renney, whose club has alternated long winning and losing streaks all season. "What we are not capable of doing is sustaining that. I would like to play (the Devils) every second game so we could identify with excellence."
The inconsistency of the Rangers, who were expected to compete for the Atlantic Division crown, has them in second place in the division, but 11 points behind the Devils.
A big problem for New York has been its play at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are 10-9-3 there this season after going 25-10-6 on home ice in 2005-06, when they earned their first playoff berth in eight seasons and first 100-point season since winning the Stanley Cup in 1993-94.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist also hasn't been nearly as good at home this season, going 9-6-2 with a 2.85 goals-against average in 18 games. He was 21-6-4 with a 1.96 GAA at MSG as a rookie in 2005-06.
Lundqvist, though, appears to be finding some consistency of late, allowing two goals on 57 shots in his last two starts.
He hopes to get more support at the other end of the ice Saturday.
Brendan Shanahan - tied with Martin Straka for the team lead with 24 goals - has managed only two in the last 18 games after scoring 22 in his first 29 contests. Still, the 37-year-old left winger will captain the East in Wednesday's All-Star game at Dallas, and will be the oldest player in that game.
Shanahan has four goals in the last five games against the Thrashers (26-15-8), and 14 points in eight career meetings with Atlanta.
Marian Hossa - Atlanta's lone All-Star - has struggled to find the net recently, scoring only five times in his last 14 games. The goals have come in two games, including his second hat trick of the season in Tuesday's 6-2 win over Los Angeles.
Hossa followed up that performance with an assist on Bobby Holik's first-period goal Thursday with 9 seconds remaining, but Montreal's Cristobal Huet made 44 saves and the Thrashers lost 4-1 to the Canadiens.
"We did a lot of great things," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "But Huet was very good. He came up with some big saves at critical times. He kept them in the game."
Atlanta will try to rebound from the defeat and beat New York for the fourth time in five meetings, including three in a row at MSG.
Holik, a Ranger from 2002-04, scored his second goal of the game in overtime to beat New York 5-4 on the road Nov. 28 in the teams' last meeting.