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Sunday, December 29, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Lightning

By Katie Strang

At a glance: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will return to franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning after giving three straight starts to backup Cam Talbot. Though Lundqvist has struggled as of late, he'll try to turn his game around as the Rangers aim to rebound from Friday's 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals that has the Blueshirts in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Bolts are in 3rd place despite the absence of superstar Steven Stamkos, who remains out with a broken leg, and have rattled off five wins in the past six games.

Slumping stars: The Rangers need more production from some of their top offensive players, namely Rick Nash and Brad Richards. Nash has been held without a goal in the last seven games while Richards is goalless in the last nine. Their slumps do not bode well for a 27th-ranked offense that has managed only 2.26 goals per game.

On the mend: Injured defenseman Marc Staal continues to make progress from a concussion sustained December 7. The 28-year-old skated with the team on Sunday and, according to the New York Daily News, did not rule out being able to play in Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers. Captain Ryan Callahan also skated in full gear for the first time since suffering a knee sprain earlier this month; he is not expected to return until the first week of January at the very earliest.

Rangers rookie: 23-year-old defensive prospect Conor Allen will make his NHL debut Sunday against the Bolts, replacing an injured Anton Stralman (wrist) in the lineup. Allen has five goals and 13 points in 29 games for the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack. How long Allen will play up with the big club remains to be seen, though it does not appear that Stralman's injury is too severe. Stralman told reporters on Sunday that X-rays on his wrist came back negative.