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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, December 31st (All times eastern)

New York Rangers (18-17-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (10-22-7), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Hoping to bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the season, the New York Rangers head to Raleigh's RBC Center tonight for the opener of a home-and-home series with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Rangers will be taking the ice off last night's forgettable 6-0 home setback to rival Philadelphia in which star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after one period upon surrendering three goals on just 11 shots.

Chad Johnson made his NHL debut in relief of Lundqvist and allowed three goals on 20 chances over the final 40 minutes. The 23-year-old was recalled from New York's AHL affiliate in Hartford earlier this month, after the team placed former backup Stephen Valiquette on waivers.

Wednesday's loss stopped a string of five straight games with at least one point for the Rangers, with the club posting a 4-0-1 mark over that span. It was also the Blueshirts' first action without veteran forward Vaclav Prospal, who underwent a knee scope on Monday and is expected to be out around three weeks.

"We start over. That is the best thing for us right now is to get on a plane and play," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella following last night's game. "There has to be some discussion on certain situations, but we have to start over."

Prospal leads New York with 24 assists this season, while his 32 points trails only sniper Marian Gaborik for tops on the team.

The Rangers will try to rebound against a Carolina squad that has produced a league-low 27 points and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Blueshirts in Raleigh on December 21, with Lundqvist making 32 saves to lead the way.

The Hurricanes do enter tonight's tilt on a very high note, however, after recording an impressive 6-3 road victory over Southeast Division leader Washington on Monday. The win halted a three-game losing skid for Carolina, which each of those defeats coming at home.

"We've been getting a lot more confidence lately," said Carolina head coach Paul Maurice. "It's a hard thing to get, but we've been building some lately."

Eric Staal had a monster game to pace the Hurricanes on Monday, with the standout centerman generating two goals and three assists. The Ontario native, named to the Canadian Olympic Team for the upcoming Vancouver games, has now amassed 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists) in 16 outings since returning from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss most of November.

Jussi Jokinen added a goal and two helpers for Carolina against the Capitals, while goaltender Cam Ward turned aside 28-of-31 shots.

New York, which had lost in three of its last four visits to the RBC Center before prevailing there earlier this month, will host the Hurricanes on Saturday.

12/31 10:59:42 ET


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