Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 3/1/12
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Losing to the rival New York Islanders in a shootout last Friday was a deflating feeling for the New York Rangers, but they quickly jumped right back on the horse and earned back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils to get a new winning streak kicked into gear. With just 22 games left to play in the regular season, the Blueshirts are approaching the point in which they can clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, as well as home ice advantage, if they continue to win consistently in what will be a very busy month of March. 

That all begins tonight when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center. The Rangers are 2-0-0 against the 'Canes so far this season, having beat them on December 1, 5-3, in North Carolina, and also back on November 11 at Madison Square Garden in a 5-1 blowout. The Rangers have clearly had Carolina's number this season, but the Hurricanes they will be going up against tonight are much different than the Hurricanes they faced earlier in the year. 

Carolina went 6-1-4 in February to to pick up 16 of a possible 22 points in the Eastern Conference standings. They've been led by the emergence of their captain, Eric Staal, who 'coincidentally' began lighting it up once brother Marc returned from a concussion for New York. Eric has recorded points in nine straight games (7 goals, 9 assists). And yes, there's an emphasis on "coincidentally" for a reason.

However, despite their recent success, the Hurricanes still remain eight points out of a playoff spot, currently sitting in thirteenth place in the East. They kept their hopes alive with a win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, but with some key guys out of the lineup with injuries right now, there's a steep hill for them to climb to get into the playoff picture. Still, though, there's time for them to make a miraculous run and they fully intend to do just that. 

So this will be yet another desperate squad hunting for points that the Rangers will be matching-up with, and they will have to do that without captain Ryan Callahan tonight. Callahan, who is day-to-day with a bruised foot, did not skate in practice yesterday nor did he attend Tuesday night's Casino Night with the fans. This minor injury must be nagging him, because you know it takes a lot to keep a guy like Ryan out of the lineup. 

But the Rangers should see this as a test. Callahan is the spark-plug that gets things going more often than not when in the lineup, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds when he is not there to bang bodies off the opening faceoff. It's not always noticeable, but the Rangers rely on Callahan for a lot (hitting, penalty-killing, powerplay, defense), so it's a big gap they will have to find a way to fill tonight. 

With Callahan out, newcomer John Scott will be inserted into the lineup on the fourth line to make his Ranger debut. Scott said the coaching staff briefly went over strategies with him yesterday and today, so we'll see how he performs out there. I doubt he gets too much ice time, though. 

Marty Biron will also be starting in goal, which means Henrik Lundqvist will be in against the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night for the second half of the back-to-back. 

New York Rangers Lineup

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