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Rangers Look to End Skid Against Predators

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers (1-5-2, 4 pts) vs Predators (4-2-1, 9 pts)
12:30 pm, Madison Square Garden
MSG Network; ESPN 98.7 FM

The Game

The Rangers continue their season-long, six-game homestand when it hosts the reigning Western Conference champion Nashville Predators.

New York is looking to snap out of a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) that has seen the Blueshirts drop back-to-back decisions in extra time, including a 4-3 shootout loss Thursday after erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period against the Islanders.

Despite the lack of results, coach Alain Vigneault and his players continue to stay positive with the feeling that things have begun to turn in their direction. The biggest problem in their minds has been the team's starts, which they believe can be remedied by playing simpler, smarter hockey off the hop.

There aren't any expected lineup changes from Thursday's match against the Islanders, as the team practiced the same four lines and three defensive pairs Friday at practice. Henrik Lundqvist is also expected to get the start.

The Predators arrive for its one and only meeting at The Garden playing red-hot hockey, picking up nine of a possible 10 points over their last five games, with a pair of wins of the Flyers and a victory over Colorado.

Nashville is clicking on both sides of the puck during this current streak, with 16 goals for and just nine against.

It's been scoring by commission thus far for the Predators. Filip Forsberg leads the way with five goals and nine points in seven games, followed by defenseman P.K. Subban's seven points in seven games. After that, though, just Viktor Arvidsson has more than five points, while all but four players with at least four games played have one point or more.

Unsurprisingly, Pekka Rinne has gotten the bulk of the work early between the pipes. The 34-year-old is 4-1-1 with a 2.01 GAA and a .932 SV% with one shutout in six starts.

Players to Watch

Rick Nash has done everything but score over the last two games, but it isn't due to a lack of effort or chances. No. 61 has been a force in driving to the net, and if not for bad puck luck, the big winger could have had several goals against Pittsburgh and the Islanders this week.

Nash has strong numbers against the Predators, a team he saw often during his stint in Columbus. He has 26 goals and 42 points in 59 games against Nashville, including a goal in six of his last seven games against the Preds.

Subban is off a strong start in his sophomore season with the Predators after years in Montreal. The 28-year-old has been leaned on at the start of the season following injuries to defensive stalwarts Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, and thus far he hasn't missed a step.

Subban is leading defensemen with seven points through seven games and is a plus-2.

Say What?

"Our guys are playing hard and are playing the right way. I've been through a few of these situations like any coach. This group is together. It's accountable. It's focused … They want to succeed. They want the Rangers and their fans to be happy, and that's what we're all trying to do here." - Alain Vigneault on his team's ability to come back in games.

Rangers Projected Lineup

Rick Nash - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller
Jimmy Vesey - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast
Michael Grabner - Adam Cracknell - Pavel Buchnevich

Ryan McDonagh - Tony DeAngelo
Marc Staal - Kevin Shattenkirk
Brady Skjei - Brendan Smith

Inside the Numbers

The Rangers have won seven of their last 10 games against Nashville (7-3-0), including four of the last five games against the Predators (4-1-0).

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