Flames-Rangers Preview

The New York Rangers are well aware of where the Calgary Flames pose a major threat.

Calgary, though, hasn’t been very threatening versus Eastern Conference foes.

The Flames own the NHL’s second-worst mark against the East entering Tuesday night’s opener of a season-high, seven-game road trip.

The Rangers (36-16-6) trail the New York Islanders by two points in the Metropolitan Division with three games in hand and are three behind Montreal for the East lead thanks to a 9-1-2 stretch.

"We’re two points out of first place in our (division), a very tough conference so we’ll take it a day at a time and we’re going to focus on Calgary first," coach Alain Vigneault said.

Calgary (32-23-4) is trying to end a five-season playoff drought. The Flames are even on points with third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division and one point behind Minnesota for the final wild-card spot in the West.

"We know what’s at stake. Everyone does," captain Mark Giordano said. "The one thing is the excitement level for us because we haven’t been in this situation in a few years."

The Flames have amassed 145 points from defensemen to rank second in the NHL. Giordano is tied for the league lead among players at that position with 47 while Dennis Wideman has 36.

"They’ve got a high-skilled team, they’ve got a lot of defensemen that join the rush, some skilled defensemen back there that really create odd-man rushes and like to get up the ice so we’ve got to be at our best coming back to the zone and figuring things out," Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein said.

Wideman has a team-best seven points – all assists – in the last six games. Three have come in consecutive losses, 3-2 in overtime to Minnesota on Wednesday and 6-3 to Anaheim on Friday.

"It’s one of those things, you go in stretches," Wideman said. "You can play really good and get lots of scoring chances and not score and have a game where you’re terrible and you get two assists. That’s just kind of the way it goes."

Every game on this trip is against an East club. The Flames’ 8-12-2 mark versus that conference gives them a better winning percentage than only NHL-worst Buffalo.

Calgary is hoping to get help from forward Johnny Gaudreau, who is second among rookies with 44 points but hasn’t scored in 11 games.

"Madison Square Garden, it’s so historical and I’ve never been to the arena before in my life," Gaudreau said. "So that’s going to be a fun one."

Calgary has killed off all 20 penalties in its last 11 games, while New York is 0 for 13 on the power play in the last four.

Rangers veteran Martin St. Louis has four goals and two assists in his last four games after going 15 without a goal.

Cam Talbot has gone 6-1-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average in his last nine starts filling in for the injured Henrik Lundqvist. He made 27 saves in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win over Columbus.

The Flames’ Jonas Hiller has a 1.36 GAA in five career starts against New York.

Rick Nash, second in the NHL with 37 goals, scored twice in a 5-2 win at Calgary on Dec. 16.