Wild-Rangers Preview

The longest homestand in New York Rangers history is turning

into a nightmarish stretch for a club that in recent years has been

solid at Madison Square Garden.

Welcoming a team that hasn’t played well on the road lately

could provide a boost.

New York looks to get on track Sunday night when it hosts the

Minnesota Wild, who have dropped six of their last seven away from

home.

The Rangers (16-18-2) were second in the Eastern Conference with

27 home wins in 2011-12 and went 16-6-2 at MSG in last season’s

lockout-shortened campaign, but that success hasn’t carried

over.

They’ve lost 10 of their last 12 at MSG and dropped to 1-4-2 on

their nine-game homestand with Friday’s 5-3 loss to the New York

Islanders. Benoit Pouliot, Derek Dorsett and Derek Stepan scored,

but Henrik Lundqvist stopped only 15 of 19 shots.

“This was definitely a frustrating game. There is no question we

beat ourselves,” said Lundqvist, who is 1-7-2 with a 3.23

goals-against average in his last 10 starts at the Garden. “We kept

making some simple mistakes, and I was not there to clean it

up.”

The Rangers didn’t do themselves any favors on special teams,

either. They went 2 for 7 on the power play but also gave up two

short-handed goals in the first period – one on a penalty shot –

before later allowing the Islanders to convert on a power play.

New York has allowed one power-play goal in three straight after

giving up three in its previous 16 games combined.

“I think we’ve got to work harder. We’ve got to be better on

special teams and the power play,” said forward Rick Nash, who had

an assist on Stepan’s power-play goal. “We’ve got to work on our

opportunities, especially when you get that many power plays.

You’ve got to be better.”

Minnesota needs some improvement during a stretch in which seven

of eight games are coming on the road. It began a four-game trip

with Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh, falling to 1-5-1 in its

last six away from home.

Jason Pominville and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild

(20-12-5).

“The whole game, ‘frustrating’ I think is the wrong word. I

think ‘maddening’ is a little bit more appropriate,” coach Mike Yeo

said. “To come out and get outbattled and outworked, that was

disappointing.”

Minnesota must continue to move forward without goaltender Josh

Harding, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday in order to

evaluate his medication for multiple sclerosis. He is 18-5-3 with a

league-best 1.51 GAA.

Niklas Backstrom made 31 saves Thursday and has lost five

straight starts while posting a 3.23 GAA.

“I think my last game was pretty good and (Thursday) I could

have been better,” Backstrom said. “If you play a good game or bad

game, you want to be better next time. You try to learn from every

game.”

Backstrom is 1-2-0 with a 3.04 GAA in three career starts

against the Rangers, but he hasn’t faced them since 2010. He could

be in net opposite Cam Talbot, who will get the start for the

Rangers. The rookie is 6-2-0 with a 1.74 GAA in eight starts.