W2W4: Rangers at Lightning

December, 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.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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