A nine-game homestand was expected to leave the New York Rangers feeling jolly.
Instead, they're facing their longest slide at Madison Square Garden in more than 20 years and Henrik Lundqvist is losing confidence.
Lundqvist is expected to be back in net looking to end his own lengthy home losing streak Sunday night as the Rangers meet the Calgary Flames.
New York (15-17-1) has dropped the first four games of this homestand after falling 4-2 to Columbus on Thursday.
"It's a chance for us to really propel ourselves up the standings," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "It's pretty unfortunate we've lost the first four. Hopefully we can figure out how to salvage the rest of the homestand and bring us back to .500."
The Rangers, though, are 1-7-1 in their last nine home games, losing all five this month.
They haven't endured a longer stretch without a win at the Garden since a seven-game stretch - one tie - from March 13-April 9, 2000. Their last losing streak of at least six games as host came when they concluded 1992-93 with seven straight defeats.
Getting Lundqvist untracked could keep New York from moving closer to matching that dubious stretch.
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has lost seven straight starts at MSG (0-6-1) with a 3.26 goals-against average, and he was pulled midway through the first period against the Blue Jackets after allowing three goals on 13 shots.
"It was definitely not a good feeling," said Lundqvist, who is 1-3-1 with a 3.59 GAA since signing the richest contract for a goaltender in NHL history. "The biggest thing for me now is believing in what I do and staying confident.
"Confidence is such an important thing in this game, and right now it's not very high."
Despite Lundqvist's recent struggles, coach Alain Vigneault is planning to give him a sixth straight start.
"Hank's our best player," Vigneault told the team's official website. "He's been the best player for the New York Rangers for quite some time now. For us to win games and have success we need our best player to be on top of his game. He's the guy, so he's playing."
Production from Rick Nash would also help.
Nash has scored once in his last five home games, and he failed to generate a shot and was a minus-2 against his former team Thursday. He has 11 points over his past 13 meetings with Calgary (13-15-4), but none in the last two.
The Rangers have won the last two meetings with the Flames, including a 2-1 victory in the most recent matchup at MSG on Nov. 22, 2010.
While New York is trying to end its home skid, Calgary is looking to win a fourth straight game on the road for the first time since a six-game winning streak from Feb. 12-March 5, 2009.
Paul Byron kept the Flames rolling as the visitor Saturday, assisting on Matt Stajan's goal 42 seconds into overtime of a 2-1 win at Buffalo to open this five-game trip. That came two days after he set up Chris Butler's goal with 3.6 seconds left in OT to beat Carolina 2-1.
Byron has one goal and three assists over the past two games, giving him five points in seven contests since being recalled from Abbotsford of the AHL last month.
"Paul is such a little Energizer bunny," coach Bob Hartley said. "He works hard and he's fun to watch. Right now, he's great to put on the ice.
"He's finding a way to spend Christmas in Calgary."
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