Richards looks to continue his scoring surge and the Rangers go for their second five-game winning streak in an 11-game span when they host the Coyotes on Tuesday night.
With some help from video review, Richards came up with a clutch goal to beat Phoenix 3-2 on the road Dec. 17. His seemingly innocuous shot got past goaltender Mike Smith and crossed the line with one-tenth of a second left in regulation.
The goal was originally ruled to have come after the final horn, but a review confirmed that it counted.
The Rangers (26-9-4) have been rolling since Richards' last-second heave on net, winning nine of 10 to vault them atop the East.
"I think we're confident, we have a really good feeling in the locker room," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "We're trying to do our jobs, and at the same time we're trying to enjoy this ride this season, and so far it's been a lot of fun."
Richards, second on the team with 15 goals and 31 points, has recorded three goals and two assists during this four-game winning streak. Two of those tallies have been game-winners, and he scored again in a 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Friday.
While Richards is providing some offensive punch, Lundqvist is likely to be back in net after a 37-save effort against the Penguins.
He has won six straight starts with a 1.17 goals-against average and one shutout. Lundqvist has posted a 2.00 GAA while winning all three of his games against the Coyotes (20-17-5), though he hasn't faced them since a 5-2 victory at MSG on Oct. 26, 2009.
Backup Martin Biron was in net versus the Coyotes last month, stopping 21 shots to beat them for a third straight time.
Marian Gaborik scored twice in that meeting and went on to record seven goals during the five-game win streak that began in Phoenix. However, he has one goal in five games since.
Gaborik's 23 goals lead New York, and he's totaled 13 in his last 12 contests against the Coyotes.
That Rangers have dominated the Phoenix franchise at Madison Square Garden, winning 12 of the last 14 matchups dating to 1992 when the Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets.
Winning at MSG for the first time since Dec. 16, 2007, could give the Coyotes some momentum after Shane Doan's first career hat trick lifted them past the New York Islanders 5-1 at home Saturday.
Just like Richards' goal against Phoenix, Doan's last tally Saturday came at the final horn and needed to be reviewed for confirmation.
"You get some energy from a boost like this. ... We got another tough road trip ahead of us here this week, so hopefully we can use it as some energy," coach Dave Tippett said.
Doan, who snapped a six-game goal drought, has six goals and nine assists in his last 12 games versus the Rangers.
Smith has a 1.62 GAA and 2-1-1 record in four starts since making 27 saves against the Rangers last month. He's likely to get a chance at redemption after stopping 31 shots against the Islanders to set a career high with his 16th victory.
Smith has lost in his last two visits to MSG with a 4.55 GAA, both games coming while with Tampa Bay.
After their four-day break, the Rangers are beginning a stretch of seven games in 12 days.
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- Brad Richards
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