The Rangers hope to avoid a season high-tying fifth straight loss Friday night when they face the Thrashers, who will look to end their four-game skid and sweep the season series from New York for the first time since 2002-03.
New York (29-29-9) is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind Boston for the final postseason spot - and a likely first-round matchup against Alex Ovechkin(notes)-led Washington. Atlanta (28-28-10) is one point behind the Rangers, and tied with Tampa Bay for 10th.
The Rangers dropped five in a row Dec. 9-16, a stretch that included a 2-1 shootout defeat to Atlanta. Their latest skid grew to four Wednesday after a 6-3 loss at Atlantic Division rival New Jersey.
Vinny Prospal(notes), Erik Christensen(notes) and Brandon Prust(notes) helped the Rangers erase three one-goal deficits, but Henrik Lundqvist(notes) gave up a pair of late second-period goals to put the game out of reach. The Swedish Olympian, who had a career goals-against average of 1.75 against the Devils coming in, stopped 12 of 17 shots before being replaced by Alex Auld(notes) with less than five minutes to play in the middle frame.
“It was just a tough night for me,” Lundqvist told the Rangers’ official Web site. “I’m not going to analyze too much, just get ready for the next one.”
Lundqvist is 26-23-8 with a career-worst 2.48 GAA. He’s 1-1-2 with a 2.50 GAA over five career regular-season games in Atlanta, but has not played there since October 2007.
While the Rangers have had problems keeping pucks out of their own net, Marian Gaborik(notes) has had trouble scoring. He continues to lead the Rangers with 35 goals and 70 points, but has only one assist in three games since the Olympic break.
A scary injury and/or fatigue may be playing significant roles in Gaborik’s decline. Early last month, he suffered a lacerated thigh that required stitches after a collision with Lundqvist in practice, and he was Slovakia’s leader with four goals in seven games at the Olympics.
Gaborik has two goals and an assist in three games against Atlanta this season.
Overall, the Thrashers (28-28-10) have won five straight versus New York - four coming by shootout, including the most recent meeting. Jim Slater(notes) knotted the score in the third period and Slava Kozlov(notes) and Bryan Little(notes) beat Chad Johnson(notes) in the tiebreaker for a 2-1 win Jan. 7 in Atlanta.
Following the break, the Thrashers appeared to be mounting a playoff charge by scoring 10 goals in wins over Florida and the New York Islanders. However, they have been limited to four tallies during their losing streak, which reached four with a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Thursday.
“Usually we play well when our backs are against the wall,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said. “They’re there now. It’s an absolutely must win for us.”
The Thrashers are opening a season-high five-game homestand, and have allowed at least one power-play goal in four straight games in Atlanta. New York is 3 for 27 with the man advantage in its last seven road games.