At a glance: The Rangers retain a one-point lead in the Eastern Conference standings but are looking for a bounce-back win after Sunday’s demoralizing loss in Montreal in which coach John Tortorella said his team played like “bantams.” The 28-11-4 Blueshirts will host the streaking Predators, who have recorded five straight wins.
Back in action: Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko are both expected to return to the Rangers lineup against the Predators Tuesday. Dubinsky has missed the past three games with a shoulder injury, while Fedotenko sat out Sunday’s loss in Montreal with back spasms suffered in the team’s 3-0 win over Toronto Saturday.
Suter-less Preds: Nashville will be without one of their top two defensemen – Ryan Suter. The 26-year-old blue-liner, who has five goals and 20 assists in 45 games for the Predators this season, left the team’s 3-1 win over the Islanders Monday with an upper-body injury and will be scratched against the Rangers.
Speaking of Suter: With the NHL’s February 27 trade deadline nearing, Suter may top the wish list of many teams hoping to add a high-profile rental in preparation for the post-season push. Suter, who comes with a reasonable 2011-12 cap hit of $3.5 million, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. The Rangers will keep a close eye on Nashville’s maneuverings – the team will also be trying to lock up stud defenseman and restricted free agent Shea Weber, who was awarded $7.5 million in a contentious arbitration ruling this summer.
No Pekka: Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will enjoy a well-deserved night off after a stellar 36-save effort against the Islanders Monday that allowed him to record his 24th win of the season. Backup netminder Anders Lindback will get the start Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, according to Predators coach Barry Trotz.
Wolski woes: Should both Dubinsky and Fedotenko return, 25-year-old winger Wojtek Wolski will come out of the lineup, coach John Tortorella told the media Tuesday morning. The inconsistent forward, who missed two months with a groin injury, has averaged only 6:50 in ice time over the last two games.
On the mend: Injured Rangers defensemen Steve Eminger (shoulder), Michael Sauer (concussion) and Jeff Woywitka (foot) all skated in orange non-contact jerseys Tuesday morning. Sauer, who has not played since suffering a concussion December 5 is “day-to-day” according to Tortorella. Eminger, who was originally slated to miss six to eight weeks after separating his shoulder one month ago, will not return until after the All-Star break.