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Wild want to stay hot, while Rangers need a win

by Brian Hunter
RANGERS (10-9-1) at WILD (10-6-2)


Last 10:
New York 5-5-0; Minnesota 7-3-0

Season series:
First of two meetings this season -- the Wild will be at Madison Square Garden to face the Rangers on March 3. In the most recent matchup, Minnesota won 3-2 at the Xcel Energy Center on Oct. 30, 2009, with Antti Miettinen providing the winning tally.

Big story: Both teams will be playing the second game of a back-to-back situation. Minnesota enters on a three-game winning streak following a come-from-behind overtime win in Detroit, while New York has lost two in a row, including Friday's game in Colorado which marked the beginning of a brutal stretch of six games in nine nights.

Team Scope:

Rangers: It was an avalanche of goals in the second period by Colorado that buried New York in a 5-1 defeat. Following a scoreless first period, the Avs lit the lamp four times in the middle 20 minutes and Rangers coach John Tortorella elected to pull goalie Henrik Lundqvist after the third one, probably to keep him fresh so he can start again Saturday. Their only goal came in the third from rookie Derek Stepan, who picked up his first since recording a hat trick in his NHL debut on opening night.

"I felt like everything went their way in the second period and that kind of killed the game," Lundqvist said. "I didn't think we were that bad. We needed a couple more saves to keep us in the game, but we didn't get them."

Wild: It's not often a team walks into Joe Louis Arena, allows a two-goal lead to slip and still walks out with two points, but Minnesota pulled it off Friday thanks in large part to captain Mikko Koivu and veteran John Madden. The Wild trailed 3-2 late in the third when Koivu put in the rebound of a Nick Schultz shot with 1:23 remaining and Madden scored on a backhander with 42 seconds left in overtime for a 4-3 victory.

"It's a tough place to play and a tough place to win," said backup goalie Jose Theodore, who was terrific in making 41 saves. "Our guys showed character by just coming back."

Who's hot: Gaborik has 4 goals and 2 assists in five games for the Rangers since returning from a shoulder injury. He played his first eight NHL seasons in Minnesota. … Martin Havlat is heating up, registering 1 goal and 6 assists during a four-game points streak to tie Koivu for the Wild scoring lead with 16 points. Cal Clutterbuck has goals in three of his last four games. Niklas Backstrom, who got a rare night off Friday, has allowed one goal or less in four of his last five starts.

Injury report: New York defenseman Michal Rozsival is out with a sprained right shoulder. Forwards Chris Drury (finger) and Vinny Prospal (knee) are on injured reserve. … Minnesota has goalie Josh Harding (ACL/MCL) and forwards James Sheppard (knee), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Guillaume Latendresse (groin) and Chuck Kobasew (groin) on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Lundqvist is 2-2-0 with a 2.87 goals-against average in four career games against the Wild, while backup Martin Biron is 3-3-0 with a 2.19 GAA in six career games. … Matt Cullen, who is third on the Wild in scoring with 14 points, played for the Rangers in 2006-07 and totaled 16 goals and 41 points.

Puck drop:
Clutterbuck may have to thank Gaborik when he returns to play Minnesota. It was Gaborik's long-term groin injury two years ago that led to Clutterbuck's promotion.

He's never left.

"Thank God for his right groin or whatever it was," a joking Clutterbuck said in the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this week. "Funny how that happens. Just so happens his misfortunes led to my opportunity. I'm thankful for it, and he's doing well where he's at. Things turned out good for the both of us."

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