(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers look to keep rolling without Henrik Lundqvist when they host the Arizona Coyotes in Thursday's battle at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers boast an impressive 8-1-2 record over the last 11 games, all of which have been played without Lundqvist, who is sidelined with a vascular injury. Cam Talbot has done the lion's share of the work without Lundqvist's services and the backup improved to 7-1-2 with an impressive shutout victory in Tuesday's 1-0 win over visiting Calgary.
Talbot helped New York earn a point for the ninth straight game (7-0-2) by stopping all 21 shots sent his way by the Flames.
Kevin Hayes scored the game's only goal early in the third period. Hayes, bumped to the Rangers' top line in place of an injured Rick Nash, broke a scoreless deadlock three minutes into the third, sending a one-timer past Calgary goalie Karri Ramo.
"I didn't even know (of moving to the top line) until I got to the rink before the game," Hayes said. "I'm nothing like Rick Nash, but I was lucky enough to get a goal out there."
Nash, second in the league with 37 goals, was scratched during warmups due to neck spasms. He is questionable for tonight's game.
Talbot is expected to start again tonight for the Rangers, who are closing a three-game homestand.
New York enters Thursday second in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points and can tie the idle New York Islanders for the top spot this evening.
Arizona is well outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference and doesn't seem motivated to play a spoiler role at the moment.
The Coyotes enter tonight on a seven-game losing streak and have failed to gain a single point during the slide. The current skid matches a 0-5-2 streak from Jan. 10-27 for the club's longest drought of the season, but this one is clearly worse as it consists entirely of regulation losses.
Arizona lost its most recent tilt by a 5-1 score Tuesday when it visited the New York Islanders. The game was tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes before the home team blew it open with a four-goal third period.
Mark Arcobello scored the lone goal for the Coyotes, while Mike Smith gave up all five goals on 39 shots.
"It's embarrassing. I've never been so embarrassed as I have been this year to walk into arenas," Smith said. "I've had enough of it. It's simple plays that have to be made. When they don't get made and come back in your net, it's frustrating.
Arizona has lost two straight to begin a four-game trip and has dropped four in a row as the guest. The Coyotes will complete the swing Saturday in Boston.
The Rangers have won two in a row and five of the last six meetings with the Coyotes. They recorded a 5-1 win in Arizona on Feb. 14. New York also has won the last five encounters at MSG, where the Coyotes haven't won since Dec. 16, 2007.
Arizona prospect Henrik Samuelsson could make his NHL debut tonight after being recalled Wednesday from Portland of the American Hockey League. Samuelsson, a first-round pick (27th overall) by the Coyotes in 2012, is the son of former NHLer Ulf Samuelsson, who played over 1,000 career games with several teams, including the Rangers.