Friday, March 2, 2012
W2W4: Rangers at Bolts
By Katie Strang
At a glance: The Rangers rolled to their third straight win in Carolina and will look to make it four as they wrap up a two-game Southeastern swing Friday in Tampa. New York holds a nine-point lead atop the Eastern Conference standings, but the Bolts are still clinging to their post-season hopes. Tampa enters Friday’s match trailing the 8th place Winnipeg Jets by six points with three games in hand.
Black and Blue-shirts: The Rangers are expected to be without both captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Michael Del Zotto Friday. Callahan missed his first game of the season Thursday with a bruised foot suffered in the Rangers’ 2-0 win against the Devils Monday. Del Zotto also appears to be unlikely against Tampa Bay; the 21-year-old was forced from the Rangers’ 3-2 win in Carolina after re-aggravating a right hip injury sustained last weekend against Buffalo.
Back in action: With Del Zotto expected to miss Friday’s match against the lightning, defensemen Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka are the likely candidates to replace him in the lineup.
Birthday boy: After a strong bounce-back performance by backup goaltender Martin Biron Thursday, starter Henrik Lundqvist will be back between the pipes for the Rangers. Aiming to record his 31st win of the season on his 30th birthday, Lundqvist will face the NHL’s top goal-scorer Steven Stamkos.
Closing in on 50: With a league-leading 44 goals and counting, Stamkos is on pace to eclipse his career-best 51-goal mark, set in 2009-10. The former first overall pick also has a whopping 14 points – six goals, eight assists -- in the last seven games.
What it means: The Rangers conclude their 11th back-to-back set of the season tonight against the Bolts and have lost only once in regulation in the second game of consecutive-night outings.