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Rangers Go for Sweep of Florida Road Trip Tonight Against Panthers

Blueshirts are 4-2-2 in their last eight games

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers (5-7-2, 12 pts) at Panthers (4-7-1, 9 pts)
7 pm, BB&T Center 
MSG Network; ESPN 98.7 FM

The Game

The Rangers take their two-game winning streak into south Florida for a meeting with the Panthers to wrap up their short road trip in the Sunshine State.

New York edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday night thanks to a game-winner from J.T. Miller just 1:19 into the extra period. The victory was the Rangers' first away from The Garden this season, and propelled the team to a 4-2-2 record in its last eight contests.

Steven Kampfer did not practice on Friday after being given a maintenance day. Coach Alain Vigneault said he expected the defenseman to be in the lineup on Saturday evening, and that no other changes are expected on the backend. 

Up front, though, Paul Carey could replace David Desharnais. Vigneault said Friday he was contemplating that swap to get Carey some game action. He's appeared in just five games this year and none since Oct. 13 against Columbus.

Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves in the win over the Lightning. Vigneault did not reveal who his starting goaltender would be against the Panthers. 

Florida enters Saturday's game on a three-game losing streak, including one game it allowed seven goals and another it allowed eight. Team defense has been an issue thus far for the Panthers, who have allowed 51 goals against in 12 games, just behind Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference, though the Penguins have played three more games.

Roberto Luongo hasn't played since Oct. 20, and James Reimer's struggles led to the Panthers claiming Antti Niemi off waivers from Pittsburgh. Reimer started on Thursday and allowed four goals on 19 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Forward Evgenii Dadonov is tied for the team lead with 14 points in 12 games, which is just three off his career-high. Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov each have 14 as well, while Aaron Ekblad has seven points to lead the defense.

Players to Watch

Chris Kreider enters tonight's game with four goals in his last six games, including tallies in back-to-back games. Kreider is one of four Rangers with four goals or more this season, and is tied for second with two power play goals. No. 20 enters Saturday's tilt on a three-game point streak against the Florida.

Dadonov has been one of the bigger surprises in the NHL through the first month of the season. The 28-year-old entered the season with just 55 games of NHL experience after making his debut with the Panthers back in 2009-10. He left the NHL following the 2011-12 season before returning for this year's campaign. His six goals are just two off his career-best of eight in 2010-11.

Say what?

"I've always felt it was just a matter of time before things fell into place as far as us going out and having the starts that we deserved and we earned." - Alain Vigneault on his team's improved starts as of late.

Inside the Numbers

The Rangers have earned at least one point in 11 of 12 games against Florida since the start of the 2013-14 season (9-1-2 record). The Blueshirts have also earned at least one point in 16 of their last 20 games against the Panthers, dating back to Mar. 22, 2011 (14-4-2 record).

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