Tuesday, December 13, 2011
W2W4: Rangers vs. Stars
By Katie Strang
At a glance:Brad Richards will face his former Stars teammates for the first time as a New York Ranger, with the Blueshirts looking to collect their third straight win. The Rangers capped a back-to-back set this weekend with decisive wins over Buffalo and Florida. The Stars, losers in two of their last three games, play the third of a five-game road trip Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Richards reunion: The 31-year-old star center spent three-plus seasons with Dallas before inking a nine-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers in July. Traded to the Stars in a blockbuster deal hours before the trade deadline in 2008, Richards helped lead Dallas in a surprise trip to the Western Conference finals that season. The team missed the playoffs the next three years, however, a determining factor in Richards' decision to move on and test the market.
Beating the best: Tuesday will be the second straight game the Rangers square off against a division leader. The Blueshirts host the Pacific Division-leading Stars after toppling the Southeast Division-leading Panthers 6-1 on Sunday.
Missing Lehtonen: The Stars are still without starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who is on injured reserve with a groin strain suffered last month. Lehtonen enjoyed a tremendous start to the season, posting a 13-4-1 record with .926 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average. Richard Bachman made his first NHL start in Saturday's 2-1 win over L.A.; Andrew Raycroft made the previous four starts for the Stars.
Special teams: Both the Rangers' power play and penalty kill have been strong throughout the team's 7-1-1 stretch. The team has tallied a power-play goal in each of the last four games and is 10-for-37 (27 percent) with the man-advantage over the last nine games. The Rangers' penalty kill is 24-for-26 over the last eight, good for 92.3 percent.
Cleared for contact: Veteran forward Mike Rupp has been cleared for contact. The 31-year-old, who skated Tuesday morning, will make the Rangers' upcoming two-game Western Conference trip but is unlikely to play.
Sauer still out: Defenseman Michael Sauer remains out with a concussion suffered last week against Toronto. The 24-year-old is still considered day to day but has not skated with the team since sustaining the injury.
Bottom line: The Rangers have a chance to roll to their third straight win against a Stars team that is among the elite in the Western Conference. With one game in hand, the Blueshirts trail the streaking Philadelphia Flyers by only one point for the Eastern Conference lead.