Rangers go for perfect road trip against Hurricanes

(SportsNetwork.com) – The New York Rangers will try to complete a four-game
road trip with a perfect record when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes on
Saturday for the opener of a home-and-home series.

The Rangers have won four straight overall and are 3-0 at the start of their
road trip, which began in Western Canada before taking New York to PNC Arena
for tonight’s finale.

The Blueshirts, who will host Carolina on Sunday, have completely dominated
the Hurricanes in recent years, taking 12 of the past 13 meetings in this
series.

Carolina was able to halt a six-game home skid against the Rangers when it
notched a 3-1 victory on March 11 of last season. However, New York has
claimed two straight meetings at Madison Square Garden since then, including a
2-1 shootout victory on Oct. 16.

The reigning Eastern Conference champions entered their current swing with a
2-5-1 road record before picking up wins in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
New York outscored the opposition by a combined 12-3 score in those three
outings.

The Rangers last played on Tuesday when they recorded a 5-2 win over the
Flames. Rick Nash scored twice and Derek Stepan chipped in a goal with one
assist to help New York sprint to victory.

Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin also lit the lamp for the Rangers, while
Henrik Lundqvist turned in a victorious 29-save effort.

Nash leads the Rangers in both goals (20) and points (33) this season and
enters Saturday riding an 11-game point streak. The winger has amassed eight
goals and six helpers during the NHL’s longest current point streak.

His second goal on Tuesday allowed the 30-year-old Nash to reach the 20-goal
mark for the 11th consecutive season.

“He’s playing so well on both sides of the puck,” Kreider said of Nash. “He’s
not cheating, and that’s what makes his scoring so impressive.”

Lundqvist boasts an 18-9-1 record and 2.15 goals against average and he will
get the start tonight. Backup Cam Talbot, who signed a one-year, $1.45 million
extension on Friday, could get the call in the home-and-home finale at MSG.

New York is one of several NHL teams dealing with an outbreak of the mumps.
Derick Brassard has missed the last two games with the illness, though he
could return to action tonight, while fellow forward Lee Stempniak was
isolated from the team while being tested for mumps, leaving his status for
this game in doubt.

Carolina, meanwhile, couldn’t blame the mumps for the team’s recent 0-6 slide,
but the club finally was able to get back in the win column thanks to
Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The four goals
represented an offensive explosion for the club after it had posted just one
goal in each loss during the six-game slide.

The Hurricanes began December with a 2-1 home win over Nashville before
dropping six straight regulation decisions. Carolina got back on track
Thursday by winning the special teams battle to halt Toronto’s six-game
winning streak.

Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Chris
Terry and Justin Faulk, who scored while the Hurricanes were short-handed.
Andrej Sekera’s power-play tally in the third period restored the two-goal
lead and Cam Ward finished with 25 saves for the win.

“It’s been a while,” said Ward. “The guys played great. We got off to a good
start. To be able to score the first two goals was a relief.”

The victory pushed Carolina’s home record to 6-7-1. The Hurricanes are just
3-12-2 as the guest and will begin a three-game road trip Sunday in New York.

It’s unclear if Ward or Anton Khudobin will start the opener of the home-and-
home. Ward is 10-12-3 with a 2.46 GAA in his career against the Rangers, while
Khudobin is 0-1-1 with a 1.93 GAA in this matchup.