Lightning vs. Rangers Preview
NEW YORK, NY (AP) - The Tampa Bay Lightning have cooled off opponents on lengthy winning streaks to get victories in their last two games.
Their next foe has only won two in a row, but the New York Rangers may be brimming with confidence following a decisive performance and a major acquisition.
In their first road game in more than a month, the Lightning hope to finish a season sweep of New York in a potential first-round playoff preview Sunday.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Rangers -127 money line favorites for Sunday's game against the Lightning. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 67% of more than 137 bets for this game have been placed on the Lightning +117.
After posting an 8-3 victory to end Phoenix's eight-game winning streak Wednesday, Tampa Bay used superior defense Friday to beat New Jersey 2-1. The Devils also had won eight straight.
The Lightning (36-18-7) finished an NHL record-tying 12-game homestand at 7-3-2, but now must begin a three-game trip with their first road game since Jan. 21.
"I think we had a great homestand, overall," captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "It was a great month. Now it's time to go on the road here, and kind of get back to that NHL grind."
Tampa Bay is 15-11-3 on the road and already has one win at Madison Square Garden this season. Lecavalier and Eastern Conference scoring leaders Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis all had goals before the Lightning won an 11-round shootout for a 4-3 victory Dec. 23.
The Rangers (33-26-4) had won seven of eight against Tampa Bay coming into this season, but they're 0-1-2 entering the final scheduled meeting of 2010-11. With the Lightning leading the Southeast Division and in second place in the East and New York in seventh, a postseason clash is a real possibility.
"They're a good team, no question," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said after a 2-1 overtime loss Jan. 1 in Tampa. "They have skilled guys up front. They played pretty solid defensively, as well."
The Rangers were plenty strong in both areas Friday, getting two goals and two assists from Erik Christensen and 35 saves from Lundqvist in a 6-0 win at Washington.
While Christensen ended an 11-game drought without a point, Lundqvist also broke out of a slump. He had allowed at least three goals in eight of his previous nine starts, going 3-5-1.
With Marian Gaborik out with a concussion and the team held to two or fewer goals six times in 10 games, the Rangers would welcome more consistent production from Christensen, whose four points were a career high.
"The last couple of games he's been more assertive, I guess," said Rangers coach John Tortorella, who led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004. "He's wanted the puck and he's gotten the puck."
New York was short-handed on defense Friday without ice time leader Marc Staal, who injured his knee in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win at Carolina. Staal's status for Sunday's game is unclear.
The Rangers, however, bolstered their back line Saturday, acquiring veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe from Florida for forward Tim Kennedy and a third-round draft pick. It's unclear if McCabe, who waived a no-trade clause, will play Sunday.
Lundqvist will likely be back in net after posting his eighth shutout of the season Friday to take over sole possession of the NHL lead. He's 13-6-4 with a 2.11 goals-against average in his career against Tampa Bay.
The Lightning will start goalie Dwayne Roloson, who has dropped four straight starts against the Rangers - all as a member of the New York Islanders before he was traded Jan. 1.
He allowed all of the Rangers' goals in a 7-2 loss the last time he faced them, Dec. 27 at MSG.