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Rangers Go for Homestand Sweep Against Avalanche

New York looks for its fifth win in a row

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The Rangers can finish with a perfect four-game homestand with a win over the Colorado Avalanche tonight at The Garden.

New York had struggled at home during the month of January, losing five of six home games. That stretch, according to Henrik Lundqvist, had the Rangers looking to get back on track at home.

"We said going into this week we wanted to establish a good feeling at home, confidence, and just play with good energy. It's so much more fun when you play well at home," said Lundqvist, who can become just the 12th goaltender in NHL history to win 400 game with a victory Saturday night. "You win, get the fans involved and have good energy in the building. That's what we want. Early in the week we said let's just focus on one game and then you keep it going here." 

Establishing themselves at home was crucial, as eight of 13 games this month are at The Garden, a place the Rangers were just 14-11-1 prior to Sunday's win over Calgary that began this three-game home winning streak.

Have the Rangers regained their swagger at The World's Most Famous Arena?

"We're working on it," Lundqvist said with a laugh. "It's been a little up and down. Obviously this week has been good for us. Good for us to work on our game, to just enjoy good wins in front of our fans. I think everybody feels like leaving The Garden after two points, that's the best feeling, even though you win a lot on the road. There's nothing like it to win at home. It's been good for the group and good for our game too to win games in different ways here during this week."

A reason for Lundqvist's success - and in turn, the Rangers in general - has been finding a rhythm, something that was lacking over the last six weeks dating back to mid-December. 

Lundqvist backed up Antti Raanta for four straight from Dec. 8 through the 13th before Lundqvist's return in a 2-0 win over Dallas. 

That stretch was followed by the Christmas recess, during which Lundqvist became ill and forced him to miss the first two out of the break. He returned to action for the next four before the Rangers' bye week. After two weeks that saw Lundqvist appear in all seven games thanks to an injury to Raanta, the schedule shut down again for the All Star break.

"It's been nice to get a lot of games here, especially for me. I think the last two months it's been a weird rhythm for me," Lundqvist said. "With Christmas I was sitting for a few games, I was sick and then played a few, then break, then played a few and then break. Coming back from the All Star break, I felt really ready to get going and get a lot of ice time here to work on my game and start feeling really comfortable out there. We're just going to have to try and continue this momentum we've built during the first five days of this week."

Despite Colorado sitting at the bottom of the NHL's standings with just 32 points, the Rangers know better than to take anyone lightly.

"That's a team with plenty of fire power. They're going to come on the road here and try and win a greasy one," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "They'll be tough to play against, so we can't take anyone lightly. It doesn't matter who you're playing against. I think we've got a lot of confidence here. We want to feel good about our game, but know it's that process that's been the reason we've been successful here at home."

Head coach Alain Vigneault was blunt when asked about not overlooking the Avalanche, who topped Montreal earlier this week 4-0.

"We're not," Vigneault said. "We've got an opportunity here to finish off a four-game homestand the right way. It's important and I'm sure our guys know that. Colorado a couple of days ago beat Montreal, which is a real good team. I mention it to [the media] all the time, I mention it to the players; you've got to prepare because there are no easy games. You've got to make sure you bring your A game to the table, and that's what we're going to try and do [tonight]."

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