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Rangers Begin Road Trip Against Surging Lightning

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

TAMPA, FL. --- The Rangers look to get back to basics when they begin a four-game road trip Monday night against the Lightning in Tampa.

After being outplayed Saturday night in a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden, Derek Stepan said the team has to focus on playing more consistent hockey, rather than worrying just about winning games.

"I think our focus is just on the process of getting better," Stepan said following Sunday's practice. "Avoid seeking results and just work as a group to get better each night. The results will come with us getting better as a group and this is a great opportunity. We've got three games with teams that are playing real well."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said more was needed from his top players following Saturday's loss in which the Rangers had trouble generating much offensively. It was the eighth time in nine games New York failed to score more than two goals in a game.

Stepan, who has struggled to score as of late, said at this point, he has to start producing more and lead by example.

"Obviously there's only so much communication you can do until you just have to go out and do it as a group," he said. "You can lead by example and do all these things, but I think me as my individual game has got to get better. I thought [Saturday night] was a good step. I thought I was moving my feet a lot more. I think that will help if I can get my game to a sharper point I think when I relay vocally to other teammates, I think it will carry more weight. It just starts with that."

The Rangers have been hit hard with injuries as of late. Leading scorer Michael Grabner, who was injured last week in practice, traveled with the team but will not play. Defenseman Kevin Klein remains out with back spasms and did not make the trip.

With just 12 healthy forwards and six defensemen, the Rangers recalled forward Tanner Glass and defenseman Steven Kampfer from Hartford (AHL) on Sunday. Kampfer is not expected to play Monday but Vigneault said he was contemplating whether to use Glass against the Lightning.

Glass brings a physical edge and is a hard worker, something Vigneault said is necessary at this time of the year, especially with so few teams out of the race.

"I think at this time of the year all teams play hard and harder," Vigneault said. "Everybody is basically - other than maybe two teams in the Western Conference - are still in the playoff hunt. Teams are playing hard and they're playing tight. There's not a lot of room. You've got to compete and you've got to battle hard and you've got to battle hard for puck battles and you've got to win your share. I do think that in the last couple games there in those puck battle situations, we could have been better. This just gives us a little more flexibility as far as lineup decisions."

Tampa Bay is 6-2-2 in its last 10 and finds itself just three points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite trading several pieces of its lineup prior to last week's trade deadline, including Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula.

The Lightning are coming off a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night and are 17-11-2 at home this season.

"Every team that we seem to be meeting lately, whether it be Montreal, Boston, Washington, Columbus seem to be on the top of their game," Vigneault said. "It's another good game for us, another good test and we're going to need to be better. I think everyone in there knows it. We're going to be focused and ready to go."

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