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Tuesday, February 8, 2011
As health returns, Rangers falter

By Mike Hume

It’s a little ironic that the Rangers’ season-high five-game losing streak has come just when the team has gotten healthy.

Though Ruslan Fedotenko will still be shelved for a few weeks following an appendectomy, both Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen are back in the lineup. The pair has mounted just one point between them, a goal by Prospal, despite skating with the team’s most offensively gifted player in Marian Gaborik.

For his part, Gaborik has been notching a few more assists of late, but he’s still off his usual torrid scoring pace. In fact, disappointing Devils LW Ilya Kovalchuk is now tied with the Rangers sniper in points with 34 on the season, albeit Kovalchuk has played 10 more games than Gaborik.

Meanwhile Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist told Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record that he’s facing a minor crisis of confidence.

“I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of this than it is,” Lundqvist told Gross. “It’s just confidence, feeling comfortable out there. A lot of the time it’s just making better decisions.”

Aside from those minor glitches though, nothing seems too terribly broken, particularly considering the team has lost its last five games by a combined total of six goals. That includes one in a shootout and an empty-netter by the Montreal Canadiens that accounted for the lone multi-goal loss of the skid.

The Blueshirts will try to snap out of it Friday in a key game against the Atlanta Thrashers, who currently sit just four points behind the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Standings. The schedule will remain tough throughout February with only one game against a team out of playoff contention in a minefield that includes the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning, all of whom are ahead of the Rangers at the moment.