Rangers-Hurricanes Preview


Marc Staal's last meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes ended early thanks to a hit from brother Eric Staal, but the defenseman is only concerned with helping the New York Rangers pad their lead atop the Eastern Conference in the teams' Thursday night matchup.

Marc Staal will face his older brother for the first time since suffering a concussion on the hit, though the Rangers won't have captain Ryan Callahan as they attempt to beat the Hurricanes for the fourth time in a row Thursday night.

Marc Staal missed the first 36 games this season due to lingering effects from the hit, which came in a 4-3 shootout road win over Carolina on Feb. 22, 2011. He was initially reported to have a knee injury and played the rest of the season and playoffs before the team admitted the extent of the injury.

The Rangers (40-15-6) have won the two meetings with the Hurricanes (24-26-13) since, including 5-3 at RBC Center on Dec. 1.

"I don't think it's going to be any different for me or Eric," Marc Staal said. "It's just going to be another game that we both want to win.

"We play each other hard. We never want to hurt each other. It was just something that happened. We're going to try to get by it and compete hard against each other, which we always do."

Marc Staal failed to record a point in his first 17 games back but has two goals and two assists in the past eight.

Eric Staal leads Carolina with 19 goals and 35 assists, and he had two assists against New York in December. However, the Hurricanes' captain hasn't scored a goal in the past four meetings, and New York's stingy defensive play could prolong that stretch.

The Rangers, comfortably atop the East, are allowing a conference-low 1.95 goals per game and are coming off a 2-0 win over New Jersey on Monday in which they gave up a season-low 13 shots.

"We're not flashy, we don't depend on beautiful plays to score goals to win hockey games," center Michael Rupp said. "It's by blocking shots and doing the little things defensively that'll give us offensive chances. Those are pretty easy things to play with, as long as you got the will to do it."

Callahan has eight goals and three assists in the past 10 games after getting one of each against the Devils, but he'll sit out for the first time this season due to a bruised foot suffered blocking a shot Monday. He has one goal in each of the last five games versus Carolina while also adding two assists.

"You know we're going to miss him," coach John Tortorella said. "Cally is our captain, and everyone knows that and he's handled himself very well, but the room is good as far as leadership and as far as what we need to do to get ready for each and every game."

The Rangers rested Henrik Lundqvist for the last meeting with the Hurricanes, with Martin Biron stopping 28 of 31 shots, and Biron will get the start again versus Carolina. He has won seven in a row in Raleigh with a 2.27 GAA and one shutout, though he has allowed three or more goals in each of his last four starts overall.

The Hurricanes, seven points out of the final playoff spot in the East, are looking to build on their 6-1-4 record from last month. They beat Nashville 4-3 on Tuesday as Staal scored one goal and assisted on two others, avoiding a third straight loss.

"Quietly, we're putting some points together," coach Kirk Muller said. "We're in every game, and that's all I ask of them because they try and they compete. We knew this was an important stretch. The month has been good."

Staal has six goals and nine assists during a nine-game point streak.