The New York Rangers will take aim at the top spot in the NHL standings tonight, when they visit the Lightning at the Tampa Times Forum.
With 88 points, New York currently holds nine-point leads in the races for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. With a victory tonight, the Rangers could also tie idle Vancouver for the No. 1 seed in the NHL.
The Rangers have won three in a row and are coming off last night's victory at Carolina. Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist to lead the Blueshirts to the 3-2 regulation win at RBC Center. Gaborik's goal was his team-high 30th of the year and marked the seventh 30-goal campaign of his career. The 30-year- old Slovakian has reached 30 in two of his three seasons with the Rangers.
Artem Anisimov and Brandon Prust also scored for the Rangers, who improved to 12-3-2 over their last 17 games. Martin Biron got the call in net over No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist and stopped 21-of-23 shots in the win.
"[Biron] made some key saves at real important times of the game when we had some real struggles," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. "It was one of his better games."
Lundqvist will get the start tonight and the Vezina Trophy favorite is 14-7-5 with a 2.09 goals-against average in 26 career games against the Lightning.
Rangers forward Ryan Callahan missed Thursday's game in Raleigh with a foot injury and is expected to sit out tonight as well. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto aggravated a hip injury against the Hurricanes and is questionable for tonight.
New York, which will host Boston in its next game on Sunday, has an excellent 20-8-4 record as the visiting team this season. The Rangers have recorded a point 11 of their last 13 road games, going 9-2-2 over that span.
The Lightning, who are trying to break into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, have won two in a row and five of their last seven games. Despite that solid run, Tampa Bay is still six points out of the conference's eighth and final postseason berth.
Tampa Bay last played on Tuesday, when it recorded a 2-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens. Mathieu Garon turned in a strong performance between the pipes, making 23 saves to help Adam Hall's marker at 28 seconds of the second period stand as the game-winner.
"Goaltenders can make a difference in every game," Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. "Today, obviously, we needed very good goaltending and we got it."
In addition to Hall's second goal of the season, Steven Stamkos added his NHL- leading 44th tally of the campaign. Teddy Purcell assisted on Stamkos' first- period score to extend his point streak to seven games. Purcell has four goals and 10 assists during what is a personal-best point streak.
Purcell played on Tuesday despite experiencing flu-like symptoms, but forward Nate Thompson and defenseman Brendan Mikkelson sat out the game due to the same illness. Both Thompson and Mikkelson are expected to play tonight, while forward Ryan Shannon is questionable with an upper-body injury.
Beginning with tonight's test, Tampa will play nine of its next 11 games at the Forum. That's good news for the Lightning, who are 19-9-2 as the host this year compared to a 10-19-4 record on the road.
The Rangers have taken two of three from the Lightning this year and the last two meetings have gone past regulation. Tampa Bay has won five of seven overall in this series and the clubs have split the last four encounters in central Florida.