At a glance: With two straight wins and victories in five of their last six, the New York Rangers host the foundering Florida Panthers Sunday night at Madison Square Garden with hopes of climbing the Eastern Conference standings. The Panthers, of course, are coming fresh off the firing of coach Kevin Dineen, who was let go on Friday after the team’s dreadful 3-9-4 start. While the Senators spoiled Peter Horachek’s debut on Saturday, the Cats aim to get their first win for their new coach before heading back home to face the league-leading Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Goaltending match-up: The Panthers are expected to play Scott Clemmensen in goal Sunday night; starter Tim Thomas played Saturday night in Ottawa. Clemmensen will face Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist in nets just as the former Vezina Trophy winner has gotten on a roll. Lundqvist is 4-3-0 with a 1.45 goals against average, a .943 save percentage and two shutouts in his last seven games. His stellar play, along with a stingy effort from the Rangers defensive corps, has allowed the Rangers to hold opposing teams to two goals or fewer in nine consecutive games.
On the mend: The Rangers have returned some key players in the past few weeks in both Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan. Another star winger appears to be on his way as well. Rick Nash, who has missed over a month with a concussion, skated for his second consecutive day Sunday. The 29-year-old forward has not played since being elbowed in the head by San Jose’s Brad Stuart October 8, but seems to be making progress though there remains no timetable for his return. Meanwhile, Taylor Pyatt was forced from the team’s win in Columbus Thursday night with a concussion. Physical forward Brandon Mashinter will replace Pyatt in the lineup.