Panthers-Rangers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 11, 2011
Even after a defeat, the Florida Panthers still feel good about themselves. Looking to bounce back from their first loss in more than a week, the Southeast Division-leading Panthers try to continue their recent success against the New York Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Florida (16-8-5) had its three-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 overtime loss at Buffalo on Friday, but the Panthers still have a six-point lead over second-place Washington in the Southeast. They also felt pretty good about their latest effort, which came one night after a 2-0 victory over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. "It was disappointing we lost, but the disappointment we feel is positive,'' said backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who made 18 saves and lost for the first time in four starts this season. "Not everything is going to be perfect. We got a point, so we need to look at the bright side.'' Defenseman Jason Garrison added to his career high with his ninth goal of the season. It was his first in eight games since scoring in Florida's 2-1 home win over New York (16-6-4) on Nov. 23. The Panthers have won three of their last four meetings with the Rangers. The lone defeat during that stretch came in a 1-0 decision March 22 at Madison Square Garden - Florida's second loss in its last six trips to Manhattan. The Panthers have managed that success at MSG despite going 0 for 14 on the power-play during those six games. Kris Versteeg, who assisted on Garrison's goal Friday, scored against the Rangers last month. Though Versteeg has a team-leading 13 goals, just one has come over his last seven contests. Florida starting goalie Jose Theodore, who has a 1.57 goals-against average while winning five of his last seven starts, is likely to be in net trying for his fifth consecutive win against the Rangers. Theodore needed to make only 19 saves against them last month, and has allowed two goals on 91 shots during his last three starts versus New York. The Rangers avoided a third consecutive loss with a 4-1 win at Buffalo on Saturday night. Carl Hagelin had two goals in his eighth career game and Ryan Callahan scored one of his team's two short-handed goals as New York recorded the franchise's 2,500th regular-season victory. New York has won 13 of 17 games overall since the end of October. Hagelin, who was tied for the team lead with seven goals at Connecticut of the AHL when he was called up Nov. 24, has three goals and three assists since joining the Rangers. "I'm not here to score goals every game,'' he said. "It's a big bonus. I'm trying to make sure we're not scored upon when I'm out there.'' Henrik Lundqvist, who has lost his last two starts after winning nine of his previous 10, could be back in net after getting Saturday night off. His lone defeat during his recent successful stretch came while stopping 36 shots at Florida last month. Lundqvist is 12-7-1 with a 1.81 GAA lifetime against the Panthers. New York's Marian Gaborik has five goals in his last eight games overall, and four with five assists in his last 10 versus Florida.
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