The New York Rangers have been hit by a string of illnesses and injuries— and it’s showing in their record.
The Rangers look to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season Thursday when they visit the Florida Panthers.
New York (18-13-4) lost its third straight on Tuesday, falling 4-3 to the New York Islanders. The Rangers lost four in a row, including two overtime defeats and one in a shootout, from Nov. 26-Dec. 3.
They followed that losing streak with a season-high five-game winning streak prior to their current slide.
On Tuesday, New York was without center Matt Cullen, who missed his second straight game with a knee sprain, and defenseman Marek Malik, who has a strained groin. Both could return against the Panthers.
“It is definitely a time of adversity that we are battling through,” said Brendan Shanahan, who scored a goal. “We knew coming out that we had to be almost perfect with a depleted lineup.”
Jagr added two goals for the Rangers, who have been outscored 19-6 during their current losing streak. Still, New York, which is playing its ninth game in 15 days, is on top of the Atlantic Division, a point ahead of New Jersey.
“Hopefully the sick guys can get back into the lineup,” Jagr told the team’s official Web site. “We need them. We lost very good players. We lost a goaltender and three skilled players. It is tough to replace. It is not easy, but it is not an excuse.
“We still need to find a way to win. We have a good enough team.”
Jagr has 29 goals and 59 points in 48 lifetime games against the Panthers, but he has just one goal in his last seven games at Florida.
With Lundqvist out, backup Kevin Weekes played for the fifth time in six games. He has allowed 10 goals on 54 shots in two games.
The Rangers have allowed 10 power-play goals in their last four games.
“We took bad penalties, and some from important people,” coach Tom Renney told the team’s Web site.
The Panthers (12-18-6) are returning home after a three-game road trip, capped by Tuesday’s 7-3 victory at Toronto. Florida has won back-to-back games, outscoring its opponents 13-6 after a four-game losing streak.
“(Belfour) came up with some big saves that really kept us in the game and then we were able to capitalize with three quick goals at the end of the first period,” Florida coach Jacques Martin said.
The Rangers beat the Panthers 4-3 in a shootout in the teams’ only meeting this season. Martin Straka had two goals for New York.