Rangers-Blackhawks Preview

Beating the reigning Stanley Cup champions may have been just

what the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks needed to

re-establish their strong play. A meeting with the struggling New

York Rangers may also help.

The Blackhawks look to beat the Rangers for the first time in

over four years Wednesday night when the Original Six teams meet at

the United Center.

Chicago (18-7-3) won a season-high eight straight games before

losing three of four heading into Saturday’s game against the

Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blackhawks – considered a favorite to

reach their first Cup finals since 1992 – beat the reigning champs

2-1 as Kris Versteeg scored 2:38 into overtime.

“To come in and beat the Stanley Cup champs is special,” said

Versteeg, who has two goals in the last three games and nine

overall.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville may opt to use backup goaltender

Antti Niemi again after he made 32 saves against Pittsburgh. He’s

5-1-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average and two shutouts in seven

games, while Cristobal Huet is 1-2-1 with a 2.65 GAA in his last

four starts.

Huet has also lost his last four starts against the Rangers

(14-14-1), posting a 4.64 GAA.

“We just talked about how well he’s played and he deserves maybe

a little more ice time,” Quenneville said of Niemi, who played

three games as a rookie last season. “But it’s nice to know that

the tandem we have, the one-two punch is strong.”

The Blackhawks have lost their last three meetings with New York

dating to a 2-1 overtime win on Dec. 7, 2005. They dropped both

matchups last season, including a 3-2 overtime defeat at home Jan.

16.

The Rangers are looking to rebound from their fourth loss in

five games. They were in position to build a two-goal lead early in

the second period Sunday, but Ryan Callahan’s penalty shot was

saved by Jimmy Howard, and they lost 3-1 to Detroit.

That performance came one night after Callahan netted the

eventual winner in the third period of a 2-1 victory at

Buffalo.

“We just come away empty,” coach John Tortorella said. “I

thought we played two good games, but you just want to get

something out of it; a point out of it, but we didn’t. We have to

fight through it. I thought we played well. We’ll go back at

it.”

Marian Gaborik will try to avoid going a second consecutive game

without a point for the first time since Dec. 19-20, 2008, with

Minnesota.

The right wing leads the NHL with 21 goals, and his 38 points

are among the league leaders.

Despite Gaborik’s outstanding production, he’s managed to score

in just one of the last five games – a two-goal performance in a

5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 30.

Gaborik has eight goals and three assists in his last seven

games at the United Center.