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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, April 2nd (All times eastern)

New York Rangers (40-28-9) at Carolina Hurricanes (42-28-7), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A key battle in the Eastern Conference playoff race is on tap tonight in Raleigh, as the scorching Carolina Hurricanes host the New York Rangers at the RBC Center.

Winners of six in a row, the Hurricanes come into tonight as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with 91 points on the year. Carolina is just one point back of both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for the fourth seed and is two ahead of the seventh-seeded Rangers. Montreal is currently holding onto the conference's eighth and final postseason berth with 88 points.

The Hurricanes are in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season and last won six straight when they rattled off nine consecutive victories to tie a club record from December 31, 2005-January 19, 2006.

Tonight marks the start of a four-game homestand for Carolina, which has won nine in a row as the host and is 23-13-1 at RBC this season. The Hurricanes, who last tasted defeat on home ice on February 17 against Boston, can set a new club record with a 10th straight win as the host tonight.

After completing the current homestand, the 'Canes will cap their regular season with a road test against New Jersey on April 11.

The Hurricanes haven't played since recording a road victory against the Devils this past Saturday. Sergei Samsonov and Tuomo Ruutu both scored in a 3:21 span in the third period, as Carolina notched a 2-1 decision at New Jersey's Prudential Center.

Cam Ward, who was named the NHL's first star for the month of March, made 31 saves in the win. Ward posted a record of 10-1-2 during March with a goals against average of 1.98 and a save percentage of .938. He surrendered two goals or fewer in nine of his 13 starts.

The Rangers, meanwhile, ended a two-game slide and won for the second time in five games in their last trip to the ice. New York recorded a 3-0 home decision Monday against the rival Devils as Henrik Lundqvist topped 38 shots to post his third shutout of season.

Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan tallied second-period goals in the win for the Rangers.

With the victory over the Devils, the Rangers reached the 40-win plateau for the fourth straight season, marking just the second time in franchise history the team has achieved that feat. The first occurrence was from the 1970-71 season through the 1973-74 campaign.

The Rangers are playing the first of two straight on the road tonight and will also visit Boston on Saturday. The Blueshirts are just 16-17-5 as the guest team this year.

This marks the final regular-season meeting between the Rangers and 'Canes this year. New York has taken two of the three encounters so far and has won four of six and seven of the last 10 matchups overall. However, the Blueshirts have dropped two of three and seven of their last nine in Raleigh.

04/02 10:54:00 ET

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