Rangers battle Blackhawks in Windy City

( - The New York Rangers try to pull closer in the Metropolitan Division title race when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks for Sunday's battle in the Windy City.

The Rangers have lost two of their last three games following a four-game win streak, but the club has managed to gain a point in 15 of its last 17 contests (12-2-3).

New York is only three points behind the Islanders for the top spot in the Metro. The Blueshirts have four games in hand over the Isles, who are idle Sunday but will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow ahead of an upcoming showdown at Nassau Coliseum.

The New York rivals will meet Tuesday on Long Island in the third stop for the Rangers on a five-game road trip. The big contest marks the final meeting between the clubs in the 2014-15 regular season.

The Blueshirts began their trek Wednesday night in Detroit and fell 2-1 in overtime after Marek Zidlicky scored 1:09 into the extra session.

Henrik Zetterberg sent a short pass from the right circle to the front of the net for Pavel Datsyuk, who turned around and tried to jam the puck in. Cam Talbot made the stop, but the puck sat in the slot and Zidlicky was able to take a swipe at it, with the disc bouncing over Talbot and in for the victory.

Dan Girardi scored the only goal of the game for the Rangers, who had won five of six coming into the road trip. Talbot made 29 stops in a game which saw New York outshoot the opposition by a 40-31 margin.

"The story for me was not burying our chances," said New York defenseman Dan Boyle, who played in his 1,000th NHL game. "We missed a lot of opportunities, especially in that second period. We had good looks and unfortunately we couldn't find the back of the net."

The Rangers fell to 18-10-2 as the visiting team this season following the OT loss in Motown.

Chicago enters Sunday's showdown sitting third in the Central Division and is four ahead of fourth-place Minnesota, which hosts Colorado on Sunday. The Blackhawks also are four behind the idle St. Louis Blues for second place.

The Blackhawks have won two straight at the start of a three-game homestand and own a 4-1-0 mark over their past five games. Chicago is coming off a 2-1 shootout victory over Edmonton on Friday when Antoine Vermette delivered his first big moment in a Blackhawks sweater, scoring the deciding goal in the third round of the tiebreaker.

Vermette, acquired Monday from Arizona at the trade deadline, snuck a backhand attempt through the legs of Ben Scrivens in the veteran center's second game with Chicago.

"Winning games is great, it doesn't matter how you do it," said Vermette.

The goal rewarded Corey Crawford for a stellar performance between the pipes, as the Chicago netminder turned aside 46 shots before denying all three Edmonton skaters in the shootout.

Brent Seabrook helped the Blackhawks pick up the important two points by recording the game-tying goal with 6:02 remaining in regulation.

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, picked up in a trade with Philadelphia last weekend, logged 14 minutes, 49 seconds of ice time in his second test with the Blackhawks. The 39-year-old Finn said Thursday that he will retire following this season.

Center Andrew Desjardins, acquired by the Blackhawks from San Jose at Monday's deadline, made his Chicago debut on Friday. The physical forward registered seven hits and two shots in under 10 minutes of ice time.

The Blackhawks have won three straight on home ice to push their record at the United Center to 21-9-4.

New York, which expects to go with Talbot in net again tonight, has won two straight and six of the last nine meetings against Chicago.

Talbot has faced the Blackhawks once in his career, earning the win in New York on Feb. 27 of last season after stopping 31-of-32 shots. He has started 14 of the last 15 games for the Rangers while No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist recovers from a sprained blood vessel in his neck.

Crawford will get the call for Chicago. He is 1-2-0 with a 2.39 goals against average in his career versus the Rangers.