Hurricanes-Rangers Preview

The combination of newcomer Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik

didn’t produce like New York Rangers coach John Tortorella had

hoped, but now the team is getting plenty of contributions from its

top line.

The Rangers look to win six straight for the first time in two

years Friday night when they host a slumping Carolina Hurricanes

team trying to get its offense in gear.

Signed to a nine-year, $60 million deal in the offseason,

Richards was largely ineffective through the first eight games,

with one goal and four assists.

Gaborik scored four times during that stretch as he played on

the first line with Richards, and the result was a 3-3-2 start for

the Rangers.

Since splitting the two forwards, New York (8-3-3) has scored 21

goals while going 5-0-1.

The top line of Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov has

eight goals and 14 assists during the winning streak after

combining for seven points in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory at

Ottawa.

“I think we feel pretty good out there,” said Gaborik, who has

four goals and three assists during a four-game point streak. “Arty

and Step are playing with a lot of confidence. We scored a couple

of goals off great forechecks by those guys. Hopefully we can keep

it up.”

The Rangers, who last won six straight during a 7-0-0 run from

Oct. 3-17, 2009, also will try to extend their winning streak at

Madison Square Garden to five. They haven’t done that since a 5-0-0

surge from Oct. 29-Nov. 8, 2007.

The Hurricanes (5-7-3) have dropped four straight away from

home, and now they’ll look to avoid their worst road losing streak

since a franchise-record 13-game skid to open the 2009-10

season.

They’ve lost three in a row and seven of nine overall following

Wednesday’s 3-2 road loss to New Jersey.

Despite getting a goal which came off the stick of a Devils

player, Carolina scored two or fewer for the fourth time in five

games.

“It’s tough to take,” said center Brandon Sutter, who gave the

Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with his second short-handed goal of the

season. “We’ve had a tough go the last few games.”

Carolina, though, could benefit from forward Jussi Jokinen

(three goals, nine points) returning after missing three games with

a lower-body injury.

Improved play by captain Eric Staal also could help. Staal, the

club’s leading goal scorer in four of the last six seasons, is

pointless in the last six games and without a goal in nine

straight.

Staal has three goals and an assist in the last three matchups

at MSG and scored in the most recent one, but the Hurricanes lost

2-1 in overtime Jan. 5.

Returning to New York also has forced Staal to answer questions

about his brother Marc, a Rangers defenseman who has not played

this season due to post-concussion symptoms from a check delivered

by Eric in a matchup at Raleigh on Feb. 22.

Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 31 shots in the Jan. 5 meeting as

New York snapped a three-game home losing streak to Carolina, has a

1.95 goals-against average while winning his three November

starts.

Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward has a 5.02 GAA during his

personal three-game skid.

Ward, though, is 4-0-2 with a 1.77 GAA in his last six starts

versus New York.