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W2W4: Rangers at Lightning

12/3/2011


At a glance: With four straight wins, the Rangers will attempt to keep their streak intact as they conclude a two-game Southeast swing against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday. Fueled by standout performances from their biggest stars, the Rangers have posted an impressive 8-2-0 record in their last ten games.

Big step: Derek Stepan told reporters he will play Saturday. The 21-year-old center injured his left ankle after blocking a shot during the third period of the Rangers’ 5-3 win over Carolina Thursday. Stepan, who has four goals and nine assists in 22 games this season, missed practice Friday although x-rays came back negative.

Back to the Bay: Both head coach John Tortorella and center Brad Richards return to Tampa Bay, where they won a Stanley Cup Championship in 2004. This will be the first time Richards faces the Bolts as a Ranger; the former Conn Smythe trophy winner has five points (one goal, four assists) in three career games against his old club. Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko was also a member of the Cup-winning squad; his pair of goals led the team to a 2-1 victory over Calgary in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Power-play prowess: The Rangers have tallied a power-play goal in each of their last four games. During that span, the Rangers have converted five of 17 man-up opportunities, good for 29.4%. The unit has struggled on the road, however, going only 5-for-49 (10.2%), which ranks 28th in the NHL.

Rookie on a roll: Rookie forward Carl Hagelin enters Saturday’s contest with a four-game point streak. The 23-year-old winger has made his way onto the scoresheet in each game played since he was called up from the team’s minor-league affiliate in Hartford. Hagelin is the first Rangers rookie since Steve King (92-93) to begin his career with a four-game point streak.

Tough time: The Rangers were 0-2-2 against the Lightning last season; they last recorded a win against Tampa Bay on April 2, 2010 – a 5-0 rout bolstered by a 30-save shutout effort by Henrik Lundqvist.

Bottom line: The struggling Bolts will have to knock off a streaking Rangers team to snap their two-game skid. Winners in only four of their last ten games, Tampa Bay is in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points.