Blue Jackets-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't want to talk about a potential trade for Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, or any other deal for that matter.

Tortorella's concern is helping the Eastern Conference leaders rebound from a rare loss.

The Rangers will try to avoid their first two-game skid in more than two months on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, where they'll face the league-worst Blue Jackets.

Although rumors are swirling that Nash - the Blue Jackets' leader with 18 points and 39 points - could be on the move prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, Tortorella will not address any potential deal the Rangers (37-14-5) may be contemplating.

"I'm thinking about coaching against Columbus and trying to get the team back, try to find a way to win a hockey game," he said following Saturday's practice. "... I am not speaking on trades, trade deadlines - I don't even know when it is. We're just going to go about our business and get ready for tomorrow's game."

The Rangers, seven points ahead of second-place Boston in the East, will try to get off to a better start after giving up four goals in the opening 9:38 of Thursday's 4-2 home loss to Chicago.

New York last dropped two in a row Dec. 13 and 15.

"We want to have a lot more jump tomorrow night to start the game," said defenseman Anton Stralman, who spent the last two seasons with the Blue Jackets. "Especially when you play a team that's having a tough year, you want to get out there and really show them that they don't have anything to get in this game."

The Blue Jackets (17-35-6), among the league's lowest scoring teams with 2.26 goals per game, could find it difficult to get much going with Henrik Lundqvist expected to be in net for New York after Martin Biron got the nod on Thursday.

Lundqvist is the league leader with seven shutouts after making 42 saves in Tuesday's 3-0 road win over the Bruins. He is 2-2-0 with a 2.77 goals-against average in four starts against the Blue Jackets, stopping 20 shots in the teams' only meeting last season, a 3-1 Columbus home win on Dec. 11, 2010.

The Blue Jackets were hoping to arrive in New York with a fifth win in seven games, but the club capped off a 1-2-0 homestand on Saturday with a 6-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

"It was 6-1 and we weren't playing,'' interim coach Todd Richards said of his third-period timeout. "We were going through the motions. I was embarrassed by the way we were playing.''

Still, the Blue Jackets have won two straight on the road after losing their previous seven away from home. Columbus' last three-game road winning streak was a franchise-best six-game streak from Jan. 19-Feb. 18, 2011.

Rangers leading scorer Marian Gaborik scored twice and set up two goals in a 7-4 victory in the Blue Jackets' last visit to MSG on Nov. 23, 2009. It was Gaborik's third consecutive two-goal game against the Blue Jackets - the previous two while playing for Minnesota.

Nash scored twice and set up Antoine Vermette's goal last season versus New York.