After getting mixed results on their seven-game homestand, the New York Rangers will try their luck on the road, as they begin a three- game trek with tonight's matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers posted a 4-3 record on their recent homestand and the Eastern Conference leaders closed the residency on a sour note last night, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Buffalo Sabres.
While New York has been up-and-down lately, the rival Pittsburgh Penguins have gone 13-0-1 over their last 14 games to threaten the Rangers' once-comfortable lead atop the Atlantic Division and conference. Pittsburgh, which plays tonight in Ottawa, is just one point behind the Blueshirts and has played one less game than the Rangers.
The Rangers hope to kick off their road trip with a win tonight at the Air Canada Centre in the fourth and final scheduled meeting between these Original Six rivals. The Rangers lost the first two meetings with Toronto this season before posting a 3-0 victory at the ACC on Jan. 14. New York has taken four of six overall in this series and the Blueshirts have also claimed three straight in Toronto.
Brian Boyle scored the lone goal for the Rangers in Friday's loss to the visiting Sabres. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 22-of-26 shots for New York.
"We had some chances," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. "(Buffalo's) second goal really killed us, it really hurt us, because (Sabres goaltender Ryan) Miller is playing so well. We gave that one up when we had full control of the puck and really maybe a chance to score another goal ourselves."
In addition to the game, the Rangers also lost forward Mats Zuccarello to a fractured wrist in the first period. The 24-year-old undrafted winger will be sidelined indefinitely.
The Rangers, who will also visit Minnesota and Winnipeg during this swing, are 20-11-5 as the visiting team this season.
Toronto, which is eight points out of a playoff spot with just seven games to play, has won three of its last five games and is coming off Friday's close win in New Jersey. Nazem Kadri scored in the third round of the shootout, lifting the Maple Leafs past the Devils, 4-3.
Kadri, Tyler Bozak and David Steckel all scored in regulation for the Maple Leafs, who snapped a two-game skid. James Reimer made 43 stops.
"Well, as always when you go on the road and get outshot like we did tonight, he [Reimer] stood tall in the net for us, gave us a chance...they came with their push in the third period and our guy made some big stops," Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said.
Reimer made four saves in overtime to send the contest into a shootout and the first four shooters of the decisive phase found the back of the net. However, Reimer stopped Patrik Elias to begin the third round, setting the stage for Kadri's winning shot. Kadri pretended like he was going to his backhand before sliding the puck past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur for the game winner.
"He [Kadri] came so close to me and turned on a dime and went right around me," Brodeur said. "You've got to give him credit."
Tonight's test kicks off a four-game homestand for the Leafs, who have lost eight straight at Air Canada Centre since their last home win on Feb. 6.
Toronto is 16-14-6 as the host this season.