Rangers Vs. Panthers: Keys To The Game

The New York Rangers watched the Washington Capitals snap their five-game winning streak Thursday night. Tonight, the Rangers will look to bounce back against a Florida Panthers team which is just 4-3-3 in their last 10 games.

Here's how the Rangers can get their 23rd win of the season:

Get Ahead Early: The Rangers started off their loss to the Capitals strong, missed a few early chances and ended up going down 1-0 despite controlling the game. New York tied the game at one thanks to a Brandon Dubinsky goal, but once Washington took a 2-1 lead things fell apart for the Rangers. While New York has come back to win games before this season, it's not something a team wants to rely on for wins. Taking an early lead should help both silence the crowd and allow New York to dictate the game.

Take Care Of The Puck: The Rangers had three different turnovers lead to goals in the loss to Washington. One of them (the Michael Del Zotto turnover) was the result of a bouncing puck, but the other two were just careless plays (especially the Brad Richards turnover). If the Rangers make sure to take care of the puck, they can keep the play out of their own defensive zone and keep the Panthers on their heels.

Join me after the jump for more.

Let The Defense Breath: The Rangers still have Stu Bickel in the lineup, but the defense finally seems to be getting healthy again. Jeff Woywitka is back and Marc Staal is improving -- although there is still no word on Michael Sauer. And while things are better on the back end then anyone could have thought (give Anton Stralman a lot of credit for that as well) the Rangers still want to spend as little time in their defensive zone as possible.

Rangers official pregame notes below:

Friday, Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m.
BankAtlantic Center - Sunrise, Florida
Rangers: 22-9-4 (48 pts)
Panthers: 19-11-7 (45 pts)

* All information through NHL games on Dec. 28

The Rangers will face-off against the Florida Panthers tomorrow at BankAtlantic Center (7:30 p.m.), in their final game of 2011. The Blueshirts currently rank first in the Atlantic Division standings, and second in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 22-9-4 (48 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having been defeated by the Washington Capitals, 4-1, on Wednesday at Verizon Center to snap their five-game winning streak. The Blueshirts have registered at least one point in 21 of their last 27 games (19-6-2), and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. The Panthers enter the contest with a 19-11-7 (45 pts) record to rank third in the Eastern Conference, and have lost three of their last four games (1-2-1). Following tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Monday, Jan. 2, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadephia, Pennsylvania (1:00 p.m.).

Please note the Blueshirts do not have a morning skate scheduled prior to tomorrow's contest. Head Coach John Tortorella will be available to the media at 5:20 p.m. at BankAtlantic Center.
* Schedule and availability subject to change

* TV: MSG Network
7:00 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show with Bill Pidto and Ron Duguay
7:30 p.m. - Rangers at Panthers
Broadcasters: Sam Rosen (Play-By-Play), Joe Micheletti (Analyst), John Giannone (In-Game Reporter)
* Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio and newyorkrangers.com
7:00 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show
7:30 p.m. - Rangers at Panthers
Broadcasters: Don LaGreca (Play-By-Play), Pete Stemkowski (Analyst)

* All-Time: 39-26-6-4 overall (20-13-4-0 at home; 19-13-2-4 on the road)
* 2011-12: Tonight is the third of four meetings this season, and the second of two at BankAtlantic Center. New York is 1-1-0 overall and 0-1-0 on the road. The Rangers are 2-7 (28.6%) on the power play and 10-11 (90.9%) on the penalty kill in two games. Derek Stepan leads all skaters with three goals and four points in the season series, while Marian Gaborik has tallied a team-high, two assists (three points). Henrik Lundqvist is 1-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA and .949 Sv% in two games.
* Last Season: New York was 2-2-0 overall, with a 1-1-0 mark at home. Three of their four meetings resulted in a shutout, including two for the Rangers. New York's power play tallied two goals in nine attempts (22.2%) in the season series. Brandon Prust and Derek Stepan each notched a team-high, two goals, while Henrik Lundqvist posted a record of 2-1-0 with a 1.35 GAA, .949 Sv% and two shutouts in three appearances.
* The Rangers have won six of their last nine games against the Panthers, having out-scored Florida 24-13 over the span
* New York ranks third with an 11-6-2 (24 pts) record on the road; Florida ranks 15th with a 9-3-5 (23 pts) mark at home
* The Rangers have posted a 7-2-1 record vs. Southeast Division opponents; the Panthers are 5-3-1 vs. the Atlantic Division
* Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 13-7-1 record with a 1.77 GAA and five shutouts in 21 career regular season contests vs. Florida; Martin Biron is 7-12-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA in 21 career regular season games vs. the Panthers
* Brad Richards leads the Rangers with 15 goals, 26 assists and 41 points in 48 career regular season contests vs. Florida; Derek Stepan has tallied six points (five goals, one assist) in six career regular season games vs. the Panthers
* New York lists one former Panther on their roster: Steve Eminger (2008-09)
* Florida lists one former Ranger on their roster: Mikael Samuelsson (2001-02 - 2002-03)

The Rangers are 12-63 (19.0%) with the man advantage in the last 17 games. The Blueshirts' penalty kill has held their opponent scoreless in eight of their last 11 games (30-34, 88.2% over the span), while tallying four shorthanded goals during the stretch. New York is tied for third in the NHL with five shorthanded goals. The Blueshirts have posted a record of 14-1-2 in games when tallying a power play goal, and are 14-4-2 when holding their opponent scoreless on the power play.
* Power Play: The Rangers did not tally a goal in five power play attempts (10:00) on Wednesday at Washington. New York ranks 21st overall (21-137, 15.3%) and is tied for 28th on the road (7-67, 10.4%). The Rangers are 2-12 (8:51) in five-on-three situations (last – 12/23 vs. PHI), and 0-4 (3:46) when four-on-three (last – 11/3 vs. ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (3): 12/5 vs. TOR (Steckel); 12/8 vs. TBL (Moore); 12/17 at PHX (Korpikoski).
* Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Capitals scoreless in two shorthanded situations (4:00) on Wednesday at Washington. New York ranks sixth overall (107-125, 85.6%) and 12th on the road (60-71, 84.5%). The Rangers are 5-6 (3:26) in three-on-five situations (last – 12/17 at PHX), and 0-1 (1:17) when three-on-four (last – 10/7 at LAK). Shorthanded goals for (5): 10/20 at CGY (Prust); 12/8 vs. TBL (Anisimov); 12/10 at BUF (Hagelin); 12/10 at BUF (Callahan); 12/20 at NJD (Hagelin).
* Four-on-Four: New York did not skate in a four-on-four situation on Wednesday at Washington. The Rangers are plus-three in 36 four-on-four situations (63:36), and even in one three-on-three situation (0:01). Four-on-four goals for (3): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh); 10/27 vs. TOR (Girardi). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).

The Rangers completed a sweep of their fifth of 14 back-to-back sets this season with a 4-2 win vs. Philadelphia on Dec. 23 at Madison Square Garden. New York has posted a record of 4-0-1 (2-0-0 at home, 2-0-1 on the road) in the first game of the set, and are 4-0-1 (4-0-0 at home, 0-0-1 on the road) in the second game. Since 2009-10, New York is 25-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 13-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-2 on the road over the span. Henrik Lundqvist has started on consecutive days 56 times in his career, posting a record of 35-14-7 with a 1.82 GAA, .935 Sv% and six shutouts in the second game. The Rangers next back-to-back set begins Jan. 5 vs. FLA, and ends Jan. 6 at PIT.

The Rangers registered their 2,500th win in franchise history with a 4-1 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 10, becoming the fifth franchise in NHL history to reach the milestone along with Boston, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.

Rangers' prospects J.T. Miller (USA) and Peter Ceresnak (Slovakia) are currently competing at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta, Canada. Miller has notched one power play goal, five shots on goal and has posted a plus-two rating in two tournament contests with Team USA (1-1). Ceresnak has registered two shots on goal and a plus-one rating in two contests with Slovakia (1-1).

* 2nd in win% (.686)
* T-1st in fewest regulation losses (nine)
* 5th in wins (22)
* T-3rd in regulation/overtime wins (21)
* 2nd in fewest goals against (73)
* 2nd in GAA (2.09)
* 3rd in hits (924)
* 3rd in +/- rating (plus-26)
* 4th in goal differential (plus-27)

* The Rangers have posted a record of 7-3-0 in the last 10 contests
* New York has registered a point in 21 of their last 27 games (19-6-2), and has out-scored their opponent, 87-58, during the stretch
* The last time the Rangers sat atop the Atlantic Division standings this late into the season was 2005-06 (Game No. 80, Apr. 13, 2006)
* The Blueshirts' 11-3-2 (24 pts) mark at MSG is their best start at home through 16 games since 1995-96 (12-2-2, 26 pts)
* New York is 6-1-1 when leading after the first period and 14-0-2 when leading after the second
* New York leads the NHL with an .786 win% when out-shooting their opponent (11-3-0)
* The Rangers rank second in the NHL when scoring first, posting a 17-1-1 mark (.895 win%) in those contests, and their 17 wins are tied for second in the league

* Henrik Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 17 games this season, and is 13-4-1 with a 1.77 GAA, .941 Sv% and two shutouts in his last 18 games
* Lundqvist ranks fourth in the NHL in Sv% (.936), and is tied for fourth in GAA (1.95) and shutouts (three)
* Martin Biron has held opponents to two or fewer goals in six of his nine starts this season
* Marian Gaborik has tallied eight points (seven goals, one assist) and a plus-eight rating in the last six games
* Gaborik is tied for first in the NHL with 22 goals
* Michael Del Zotto has tallied 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in the last 15 games, including five points (one goal, four assists) in the last four contests
* Del Zotto ranks fourth in the NHL overall, and second among league defensemen, with a plus-23 rating
* Ryan Callahan enters the contest with a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists over the span), and has recorded 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in the last 17 games
* Brandon Dubinsky has tallied four points (two goals, two assists) in the last four games
* Stu Bickel has tallied four assists in five games since being recalled on Dec. 18
* Anton Stralman has tallied four assists in the last four games, has posted a plus-eight rating in the last five and has logged 20:00+ of ice time in five of the last seven contests

* Artem Anisimov: 1 game from 200th NHL career
* Brandon Dubinsky: 4 points from 200th NHL career
* Marian Gaborik: 1 assist from 300th NHL career
* Dan Girardi: 3 assists from 100th NHL career

* Stu Bickel: 1st career NHL game & 1st career NHL assist/point (12/20 at NJD)

* Marc Staal (concussion, IR on 10/5) - 35
* Wojtek Wolski (groin, 11/3) - 24
* Michael Sauer (concussion, 12/5) - 11
* Steve Eminger (shoulder, 12/17) - 5
Total Man-Games Lost: 111

* Dec. 28 - Assigned defenseman Tim Erixon to Connecticut (AHL)