Rangers-Panthers Preview

Henrik Lundqvist was back to form in his return, and what looked

like a potential controversy in goal could prove to be a strength

for a New York Rangers team that’s played with more consistency

over the past week.

Lundqvist seems likely to start again as the Rangers visit the

Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Lundqvist made 37 saves and stopped 15 of 16 shots in the third

period to lift the Rangers to their third win in four games Sunday,

4-3 at Tampa. New York’s star goaltender had backed up Cam Talbot

in the previous three games and hadn’t played since Dec. 20, due in

part to the Christmas break.

”He played a real strong game, gave us a chance to win,

especially in the third when they had a real strong push and they

were tough to handle,” coach Alain Vigneault said. ”He had some

huge saves to make, and he did.”

Lundqvist’s 2.78 goals-against average is half a goal higher

than his career mark, but he performed like the player that

compelled New York to give him a seven-year contract extension Dec.

4.

Talbot’s outstanding play and Lundqvist’s struggles have raised

questions as to whether the team had made a mistake, but Sunday’s

performance showed that Lundqvist is still capable of carrying New

York (19-19-2) when necessary.

It could also mean that the club has two goalies that give it a

chance to be competitive in every game.

“I know this is a process. It’s not going to turn around in one

game, but I have to take it 20 minutes at a time and just try to do

as good as possible and take it from there,” said Lundqvist, who

has a 3.68 GAA in his last eight starts.

The Rangers went 3 for 3 on the power play Sunday, leaving them

at 8 for 23 (34.8 percent) in the past six games. Mats Zuccarello

had a goal and two assists while Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and

Benoit Pouliot also scored.

New York is 1-1-0 on its five-game road trip as it gets set to

face a Panthers team that ended a three-game losing streak with a

4-1 victory over Montreal on Sunday. Brian Campbell, Aleksander

Barkov and Dmitry Kulikov scored and Scott Clemmensen stopped 21

shots for Florida (15-20-5), which had dropped the first two on a

five-game homestand.

Despite the skid, the Panthers are 8-4-0 in their past 12

games.

“We gotta string together as many (wins) as we can get here, so

hopefully we can get a good start going and finish it off with a

couple more at home here,” Campbell said.

The Panthers, one of the worst defensive teams in the league,

allowed 15 goals during the losing streak.

The Rangers have taken advantage of those struggles this season,

totaling nine goals in winning the first two meetings and defeating

Florida 5-2 at Sunrise in the most recent one Nov. 27. Lundqvist

made 31 saves and has gone 6-3-0 with a 1.57 GAA in his last nine

starts in the series.

New York has taken six of the last eight matchups and five of

six at Florida.

Zuccarello has four goals and two assists in a four-game point

streak against Florida over the past two seasons. Pouliot has

recorded four goals and three assists during a seven-game overall

point streak, while Brad Richards has five goals and five assists

in his past eight versus the Panthers.

Barkov, a rookie center, has three goals and five assists in the

last nine contests.

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is expected to return after

missing 10 games due to a concussion.