Hobbled Rangers eye victory over Lightning

The struggling New York Rangers hope getting a few injured players back can help them avoid a fifth straight loss.

The Blueshirts could have Rick Nash, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh back in the lineup Thursday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.

Nash has been out for all four games during New York's current 0-3-1 slide with an undisclosed injury. However, the power forward has been skating with the team and he figures to be a game-time decision against the Lightning. He was on a four-game point streak before last playing on Feb. 17 against Washington.

Del Zotto has missed the last two games with a lower-body issue and McDonagh sat out Tuesday's loss to Winnipeg after taking a hard hit from Montreal's Max Pacioretty on Saturday. Both players skated with the team Wednesday and could return on Thursday.

The Rangers dropped a 4-3 decision to the visiting Jets on Tuesday, as Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen each scored a pair of goals for Winnipeg.

Anton Stralman registered a goal and an assist for New York, which also received goals from Ryan Callahan and Taylor Pyatt. Henrik Lundqvist came up with 28 saves in the losing effort.

"I think that if we get some people back and we have that type of effort, some of the things that we do correctly, I think we'll get on our way," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of his slumping team. "We can say all the things we want to say, we just have to try to stay with it. And come to work tomorrow, see what our health is, keep on going about our business each day."

Tuesday's tilt marked the start of a four-game homestand for New York, which is 6-4-1 as the host this season.

The Lightning, meanwhile, have lost two straight and are coming off Tuesday's home setback against Buffalo. Tyler Myers scored the game-winner less than a minute into the third period to help Sabres post a 2-1 win in Tampa.

Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos extended his goal-streak to six games with his 14th tally of the season, but it wasn't enough, as Mathieu Garon gave up two goals on 21 shots in Tampa Bay's third loss in four games. Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 30-of-31 shots to continually frustrate the Lightning.

"I have to give credit, their goaltender was just unbelievable today," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said of Miller. "It's not just that he was lucky, he played great."

Tampa defenseman Sami Salo left Tuesday's loss with a lower-body injury and is questionable for Thursday's contest.

The Lightning are 3-5-0 as the road club this year and are kicking off a four- game swing on Thursday.

New York has claimed three of the last four games in this series and posted a 5-1 home win over the Lightning on Feb. 10. Carl Hagelin had two goals and an assist in that contest and Nash also scored a goal.