NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, April 2nd (All times eastern)
New York Rangers (34-32-10) at Tampa Bay Lightning (31-34-12), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The New York Rangers will get another chance at improving their playoff chances when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at St. Pete Times Forum.
The Rangers are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference and four points behind Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston for the conference's last postseason berths. New York is also two points behind ninth-seeded Atlanta.
Tampa Bay, however, is eight points out of a playoff berth with five games to play and has been basically reduced to a spoiler role.
The Rangers have taken two of three from Tampa this year and New York has taken six of seven and nine of the last 12 meetings in the series. However, the Rangers have dropped two of three and five of their last seven games at the Forum.
New York has registered at least a point in four straight games, posting a 3-0-1 record over that span. The Rangers are also 2-0-1 so far on a six-game road trip. The Blueshirts are 18-15-4 as the guest this year.
The Rangers picked up a victory in their last outing, edging their geographic rivals, the New York Islanders, by a 4-3 score. Vinny Prospal racked up a goal and an assist to lift the Blueshirts to the win at Nassau Coliseum.
Prospal scored his team's first goal of the game and assisted on Marc Staal's game-winner early in the third period. Olli Jokinen and Marian Gaborik also scored for the Rangers, who charged back for the win after falling behind 2-0 in the opening period.
"We took some stupid penalties and we got away with it," said Rangers coach John Tortorella. "In the beginning of the game, we had too many men on the ice which can not happen. But all in all, I thought from the second period on we played much better and scoring that first goal before they got their third got us back in the game."
After allowing two goals on nine shots in the first period, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 18 of the last 19 he faced to preserve the win. Lundqvist is 12-5-2 in his career against the Lightning and is expected to get the start tonight.
The Rangers played their last game without forwards Sean Avery and Ryan Callahan, who are both expected to miss tonight as well with knee injuries. Centerman Brian Boyle is questionable for this evening's test with a left foot issue.
Tampa Bay has just three wins in its last 10 games, but all of those victories have come in the Bolts' last five outings.
The Lightning ended a two-game slide with an impressive win in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Mike Smith stopped all 27 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season in lifting Tampa to the 2-0 road win over the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie provided the offense for the Lightning.
"I think this was one of the best games of the year as far as commitment to preventing a goal," Smith said.
The Lightning come into tonight with quite a few injury concerns, especially at the back end. Defensemen Victor Hedman (hip) and David Hale (ankle/foot) are expected to miss tonight's game, while fellow blueliners Matt Smaby (back) and Matt Walker (lower body) are questionable.
Bolts forward Ryan Malone has been skating with the club and could see his first action tonight since March 11. Malone has been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Tonight marks the opener of a four-game homestand for the Lightning, who are 19-12-6 as the host this year.
04/02 11:23:22 ET