Lightning-Rangers Preview

The New York Rangers are trying to regroup from a seemingly

controversial decision.

Production from an anemic power play would surely go a long way

in helping them get back on track.

The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers will try to show some

improvement with the man advantage when they face the Tampa Bay

Lightning at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

New York (33-13-5) fell 1-0 to New Jersey on Tuesday but seemed

headed for overtime after Artem Anisimov appeared to score with 3.5

seconds left in regulation. The goal was waived off as officials

deemed Marian Gaborik interfered with Devils goaltender Martin

Brodeur and wasn’t pushed by Anton Volchenkov.

While the call may have played a part in the Rangers losing for

the second time in six games (4-1-1), the power play seems to be

more of a concern. The unit, which went 0 for 3 against the Devils,

is 4 for 65 in 24 games while failing to score on 17 power plays

over the past five.

New York’s 13.1 percent conversion rate ranks toward the bottom

of the NHL.

Fortunately for the Rangers, their penalty-killing unit is among

the best in the league at 87.1 percent, but New Jersey scored on

the power play Tuesday.

“Our penalty killing has been washing out our power play, as far

as our struggles,” coach John Tortorella said. “It’s beginning to

show signs, but certainly not good enough.”

Increased production from Brad Richards, third on the team with

16 goals and 34 points, could get the power play going. The star

center has one goal and two assists over the last 12 games, and the

same output over the same span at MSG.

“I’m a little lost offensively, obviously,” Richards said.

“Defensive game is the way they want to play here, and I’m adapting

to that. I’ve gotta free myself up offensively for sure.”

Richards has two goals and six assists in five career meetings

with the Lightning (23-24-5), including one goal and two assists in

two games this season.

Ryan Callahan is also dealing with some offensive issues,

failing to get a point for four games after collecting four in the

previous two. The captain has two points against Tampa Bay this

season, netting a power-play goal in a 3-2 shootout defeat at home

Dec. 8.

New York has dropped three in a row when hosting the

Lightning.

A victory for the Lightning would mean their longest winning

streak at the Garden since a four-game run bridging the 1995-96 and

1996-97 seasons.

They’re hoping another trip to New York can help them

re-establish some modest success on the road in the opener of a

three-game trip. They fell 3-1 at home to Los Angeles on Tuesday

after a 6-0-1 stretch that included back-to-back road wins Jan.

20-21.

Tampa Bay hasn’t won three in a row as the visitor since March

26-April 3, and its 8-16-3 road record is among the worst in the

NHL.

That’s partly why the Lightning are 10 points behind Ottawa for

the eighth and final playoff position in the East after reaching

the conference finals last season.

“For us, it’s about what we do and not the teams in front of

us,” coach Guy Boucher told the team’s official website. “It’s not

about the standings. We really don’t care about that, and when we

do that we have a tendency to do very well.”

Steven Stamkos, who scored his league-leading 35th goal Tuesday,

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

The All-Star center has also found the net four times over the last

six road games, but he has just four goals in 14 meetings with the

Rangers.