The New York Rangers' losing streak has hit four games amid injuries and inconsistent play. They have to hope that past results against the Tampa Bay Lightning indicate they're on the verge of snapping out of it.
Looking for a third win in as many meetings with the up-and-down Lightning this season, the Rangers continue a four-game homestand Thursday night.
New York (8-8-2) fell 4-3 to Winnipeg on Tuesday despite a third-period comeback during which Taylor Pyatt and Anton Stralman goals cut the deficit to one. The Rangers, though, trailed throughout and Evander Kane answered Pyatt's tally 20 seconds later on a questionable goal allowed by Henrik Lundqvist.
"Something I am going to think about for the next 24 hours," last season's Vezina Trophy winner said. "I've tried to find out a reason for why."
New York, which scored more than two goals for the first time in five games, played without forwards Rick Nash and Arron Asham as well as defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto. Nash has missed four straight games with an undisclosed injury, and the status of all four players for Thursday is uncertain, though McDonagh practiced Wednesday and said he's on track to play.
New York has six goals in the four contests without Nash and has scored 11 in the past six overall, going 1-3-2.
"If we get some people back and we have that type of effort, and some of the things that we did correctly (Tuesday), I think we'll get on our way," coach John Tortorella said.
Star forward Marian Gaborik has gone five games without a goal, while center Brad Richards has one point in his last four and no goals in 13 games.
"There's a lot of confidence in this room ... we can build on our third period," Gaborik said.
New York played with confidence in its first two games against Tampa Bay (9-9-1) in 2013, holding on for a 3-2 road win Feb. 2 and routing the Lightning 5-1 on Feb. 10 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have gone 4-0-2 in the past six matchups.
They'll be facing a Tampa Bay team that's lost two straight since winning three of four. The Lightning went 0 for 6 on the power play in a 2-1 defeat to Buffalo on Tuesday and are 1 for 14 over the past four games, though they outshot the Sabres 31-21 and 12-6 in the third.
"Our number of chances can't be any higher," coach Guy Boucher told the team's official website. "The quality of scoring chances we got were very good."
That was due in large part to Steven Stamkos, who had eight shots on goal and extended his goal streak to six games. The star center has seven goals and six assists during a seven-game point streak, and his 14 tallies lead the league.
Tampa Bay is opening a four-game road trip in which it will also face Boston, Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
"We play the top teams, so it will be a challenge for us," Boucher said. "But it doesn't matter if we're playing Boston or Pittsburgh or whoever the opponent is, we have to play them the same way. We play the way we play and continue evolving and progressing."
The Lightning may also be without a key player Thursday, as defenseman Sami Salo departed against Buffalo with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Salo, who leads Tampa Bay at plus-11, is uncertain for this contest.
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