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Blueshirts Host the Panthers at The Garden

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

After a three-day break that included two days off, the Rangers return to action Friday night against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden.

New York hasn't played since a 3-2 loss Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Kampfer and Michael Grabner both scored that night, and Antti Raanta had 13 saves, but Brayden Point's two goals was too much for the Rangers to overcome.

The mid-week break helped the Rangers get a bit healthier, as Jesper Fast is expected to return to the lineup after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. He practiced on Thursday and coach Alain Vigneault said he'd play barring a last minute change.

With Henrik Lundqvist still on the shelf with a hip strain, Raanta will make his fourth straight start and fifth in the last six overall. Raanta has faced Florida just once in his career when he made 29 saves in a game he entered in relief back on Dec. 8, 2013, with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Friday's matchup wraps up the season series between the two Eastern Conference teams, with the road team winning the first two games, including the Rangers' 5-2 victory last Tuesday in Florida.

While the Rangers have been off since Monday, the same cannot be said for the Panthers, who played - and lost - Thursday night in Columbus after beating the Maple Leafs, 7-2, Tuesday in Florida.

A 2-7-1 slide has taken the wind of out the Panthers' playoff sails, as they currently sit seven points out of the second Wild Card in the Eastern Conference.

Vincent Trocheck is tied for the team lead with 22 goals and leads it with 49 points through 68 games this season. Young phenome Aleksander Barkov is enjoying a fantastic season with 18 goals and 45 points in 54 games after being limited earlier in the year due to injury. The 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr continues to defy time with 37 points in 69 contests.

James Reimer played Thursday in Columbus and struggled last week against the Rangers, allowing four goals on 19 shots. But with Roberto Luongo out with an injury, Florida could opt to go back to Reimer rather than start Reto Berra.

Reimer is 13-12-5 on the year, but did turn in a strong performance against the Blue Jackets with 32 saves in defeat.

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