The New York Rangers are having a good time, as they are on their longest winning streak of the season and continue to solidify their hold on a playoff spot.
The Rangers seek a fifth consecutive victory when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
New York (39-30-4) has outscored opponents 20-10 during its winning streak, which reached four with a 5-2 victory Sunday at Pittsburgh. The Rangers scored the final four goals.
A victory Tuesday would give New York its longest winning streak since a seven-game run Oct. 3-17, 2009.
The surge has given the Rangers some breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They’re in seventh, six points ahead of ninth-place Carolina with nine games remaining.
Gaborik has five goals and one assist during a five-game point streak, while Callahan has scored a goal in three consecutive games and added three assists in that stretch. Callahan’s 23 goals are a career high and one more than Gaborik for the team lead.
Lundqvist will likely get an 18th consecutive start after winning six of his last seven games with a 2.26 goals-against average. He’s 11-6-1 with a 1.90 GAA lifetime versus Florida (29-33-10), though he made only 13 saves and allowed all the goals in a 4-3 home loss to the Panthers on Jan. 25.
That defeat was the second straight against Florida for the Rangers, who must win Tuesday to salvage a split of the four-game season series.
New York apparently won’t have All-Star defenseman Marc Staal(notes) for a second straight game due to an undisclosed injury. After Tuesday’s practice, coach John Tortorella said on Twitter that Staal is day to day but won’t face Florida.
Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh(notes) is expected to play after avoiding major injury after being elbowed in the head by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke(notes) during the third period Sunday. Cooke was suspended through the first round of the playoffs Monday.
The Panthers are 3-2-1 in their last six games, but the decent play has likely come too late after they dropped nine of their previous 11. They’re 13th in the conference, 11 points behind Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot with 10 games remaining - seven on the road.
Florida, loser in four of its last five road games, is opening a five-game trip with the first four coming against teams currently holding playoff spots.
The Panthers failed to generate some positive momentum heading into the jaunt, squandering a third-period lead Saturday en route to a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.
Stephen Weiss(notes), Florida’s leader with 49 points, has one goal in each of the last three games, matching his total from the previous 18. The center now has a chance to match his career-best four-game goal streak, set Nov. 30-Dec. 5, 2009.
He’s found the net only once in 12 career visits to the Garden.