The New York Rangers will try to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks for tonight's interconference showdown at United Center.
The Rangers, who lead the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with 91 points, have lost their last two games in regulation, dropping a 4-1 decision Tuesday in New Jersey and losing by the same score Thursday night in Ottawa. New York's only three-game skid this year came during a season-opening 0-1-2 stretch from Oct. 7-15.
New York took a 1-0 lead early in the first period against the Senators, but Ryan Callahan's tally would be all the offense the Blueshirts would get, as Ottawa scored four unanswered goals and Ben Bishop stopped 25-of-26 shots.
Brad Richards and Anton Stralman recorded assists on Callahan's 26th goal of the season for the Rangers, who went 0-for-4 on the power play.
"It just wasn't a complete effort on both ends of the ice," said Callahan. "They buried their chances and we didn't bury ours."
Backup goaltender Martin Biron stopped 18-of-21 shots to take the loss and is 1-2-1 over his last four starts. Vezina Trophy hopeful Henrik Lundqvist will be back in net tonight and is 4-0-2 with a 1.80 goals-against average in six career outings against Chicago.
Forward Brandon Dubinsky missed Thursday's game with a sinus problem and is questionable for tonight.
The Rangers, who are six points ahead of Pittsburgh for the division lead, are closing a three-game road trip tonight and will start a seven-game homestand Sunday against the Islanders. New York is 20-10-5 on the road this season.
The Blackhawks had won three in a row before getting slammed Tuesday night in St. Louis by a 5-1 score. Andy McDonald scored a pair of goals to lead the Blues to the rout at Scottrade Center.
"They are a tough team to get down to," Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg said of Blues. "When they score first they're pretty good. They don't give up too much and they're pretty good at playing a structured hockey game. We certainly wanted a better start tonight."
Tuesday's game was the finale of a three-game road trip and the Blackhawks will play the first of three straight on home ice tonight. Chicago is 22-7-4 as the host this year compared to a 14-18-3 mark on the road.
With 79 points, the Blackhawks are currently seeded sixth in the West, where they trail fifth-seeded Nashville by six points and are three points ahead of Phoenix.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is expected to miss his ninth straight game tonight with a concussion. He did skate on his own on Thursday for the first time since suffering the injury on Feb. 19 against St. Louis.
Toews had a goal and an assist for Chicago when the Blackhawks beat the Rangers 4-2 in New York on Feb. 16. Chicago has taken two of the last three games in this series. The Blackhawks have won two of their last three home tests against the Rangers, who haven't won in the Windy City since Oct. 18, 2000.