Hurricanes-Rangers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 17, 2013
The New York Rangers aren't pointing fingers anywhere but at themselves for their slump, which has dropped them out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They'll attempt to get back on track Monday night by earning a sixth straight victory over a Carolina Hurricanes team trying to end its own skid that has it fighting to reclaim the Southeast Division's top spot. Despite acquiring Rick Nash over the summer, New York (13-12-2) hasn't played near the level of its 2011-12 season that resulted in earning the East's top playoff seed. The Rangers have dropped to 10th in the conference while losing four of five, including Saturday's 3-0 defeat at red-hot Pittsburgh. "When you don't score, when you don't win (confidence) goes down," coach John Tortorella said. "We've got to work through it and just try to find our way here. We just have to stay with it. We've got good people, and we just need to have good things happen to us and hopefully we can grow that way." New York was outscored 9-2 while dropping the last three of a four-game road trip and knows it needs to pick things up if it hopes to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons. ''It's gut-check time pretty much,'' defenseman Dan Girardi said. ''We've got to figure out what's going on here and play with some serious desperation. We're falling in the standings here.'' Henrik Lundqvist has lost his last four starts while allowing three goals three times and said he needs to raise his game moving forward. He's 3-3-0 with a 2.95 goals-against average in his last six starts versus Carolina. "I'm not going to come up with excuses," Lundqvist said. "We need to be better. You can try and explain yourself in certain scenarios, but the bottom line is we have to be better. "I hope we understand the importance of every game. If we want to be in the playoffs, we have to turn this around." The Rangers have been without defenseman Marc Staal since he took a puck to the eye March 5, and his absence Monday will delay having each of the three Staal brothers on the same ice as Eric's and Jordan's Hurricanes visit Madison Square Garden. Marc hopes to be healthy enough for the next meeting April 6 at Carolina, but in the meantime won't get the chance to prevent his brothers from helping the Hurricanes end a two-game skid. Carolina (15-11-1) lost 4-1 at Tampa Bay on Saturday - only its third defeat in nine games - and fell behind Winnipeg for first place in the Southeast. Captain Eric Staal scored his first goal since March 2 and has a team-high 33 points. ''I thought we played hard,'' coach Kirk Muller said. ''The competition was high, and we knew it was going to be a battle. It just wasn't our night.'' The Hurricanes went 0 for 4 on the power play and have scored on only 13 of 100 opportunities this season - a conversion rate that ranks 29th in the league. "We played around with some new combinations on the power play and we'll keep going at it," Muller said. It's unclear if Dan Ellis or Justin Peters, who made 22 saves Saturday, will be in net for Carolina, which has lost three straight at Madison Square Garden.
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