Rangers-Blackhawks Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Rangers may be atop the Eastern Conference, but recent struggles on the road are keeping them from extending their lead.

Visiting the Chicago Blackhawks may just add to those woes.

The Rangers attempt to win for just the second time in seven road games Friday night when they face the Blackhawks, one of the NHL's best home teams.

New York (42-17-7) is six points ahead of Pittsburgh for first place in the East, thanks in part to one of the best road records in the league at 20-10-5.

However, success away from home has been harder to come by of late. The Rangers are 1-3-2 in their last six road games, dropping two straight by identical 4-1 scores.

Thursday's loss to Ottawa put New York on the verge of its first three-game skid since opening the season 0-1-2.

"I think we're beating ourselves sometimes in a game and finding ways to lose," coach John Tortorella said. "We're just going to continue to keep working on our game and chip out the mistakes and see if we can get a little traction here."

Doing that in Chicago (36-25-7) wouldn't appear to be the ideal situation.

The Blackhawks are 22-7-4 at the United Center, winning eight of 10 while scoring 33 goals in those victories. They also took the most recent matchup with New York there, winning 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 9, 2009.

Chicago didn't need the extra period Feb. 16 at Madison Square Garden, scoring four times in the opening 10 minutes en route to a 4-2 victory.

Martin Biron made 18 saves in that game, but Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the call this time after being rested against the Senators.

Lundqvist leads the NHL with eight shutouts, and is among the leaders with a 1.84 goals-against average. He is 4-0-2 with a 1.80 GAA in six career meetings against Chicago.

Lundqvist, though, hasn't been very sharp over his last three road games, going 0-2-1 with a 3.01 GAA.

Rangers leading scorer Marian Gaborik has been held without a point in his last two road games after recording six goals and 10 assists in his previous 10 away from home.

The Blackhawks are hoping a three-game homestand can help them regain their momentum after Tuesday's 5-1 loss at NHL-leading St. Louis ended their three-game winning streak.

Chicago went 0 for 5 on the power play, failing to register a shot on goal during three of those chances.

"Every game is different," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Certain guys didn't have that pace on the power play or that intensity that you need. You've got to work harder when you're on the power play, it's not a given."

Marian Hossa was held without a shot for the first time in 26 games, snapping his four-game point streak. He has five goals and seven assists in his last 11 home contests.

Hossa usually fares well against the Rangers, scoring nine goals and assisting on 10 others in his last 14 matchups. He had one of each in last month's win at New York.

Chicago is expected to start Ray Emery in net, an easy decision considering he's 8-0-0 with a 1.74 GAA in eight home starts this season. Emery is 6-1-0 with a 1.43 GAA and two shutouts lifetime against the Rangers.

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