NHL

Rangers-Maple Leafs Preview

Though there's no shame in falling to the defending champions, the way the New York Rangers had their home point streak end was particularly tough to swallow.

Of course, losing to the NHL-worst Toronto Maple Leafs would be another story.

As Mats Zuccarello seeks another big game in the series, visiting New York will try bounce back quickly Thursday night with its fourth consecutive victory over Toronto.

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The Rangers had gone 5-0-1 in their previous six games overall and outscored opponents 36-23 during an 8-0-2 stretch at home before Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Chicago.

Derick Brassard and Dan Boyle scored in a two-minute span early in the third period to put New York ahead before the Blackhawks rallied for three goals in the final 11.

The Rangers weren't happy with a penalty on Keith Yandle behind the net with 3:30 to play. Thirty seconds later, Chicago took the lead before adding an empty netter.

Boyle had been dealing with the flu, while fellow defenseman Marc Staal remains uncertain after his wife Lindsay gave birth to their second child on Wednesday.

Kevin Hayes stepped up with his third goal in four games for the Rangers, who welcomed back captain Ryan McDonagh after he missed the last four with a concussion.

The Rangers (32-19-6) scored on both their power-play chances and are 4 for 7 in their last three games, but they also allowed the Blackhawks to go 3 for 4 in those spots.

''You've got to find a way to get the job done, killing the penalty,'' coach Alain Vigneault said.

The Rangers now hope to avoid their first back-to-back losses since a three-game slide from Dec. 17-20 as they embark on a stretch with 11 of the next 15 on the road.

The Leafs are struggling at both ends, allowing 24 goals over a 1-4-0 road trip and scoring only 30 while going 4-11-2 over their last 17. They gave up four power-play goals in Monday's 7-2 loss to Chicago, one more than they've scored with the man advantage in 53 opportunities over the past 16 games.

"You can't just lie down and quit," center Nazem Kadri said. "It seems like we'll have a few good games then we'll kind of just lay an egg in that third or fourth game."

Mark Arcobello has three goals in his last two games, but netminder James Reimer has a 4.19 goals-against average over his past seven starts. He also has a 3.46 mark in six meetings with the Rangers, though he didn't play in the first two this season.

Zuccarello came up big with a hat trick in a 3-1 home win in the first meeting Oct. 30 before adding a goal and two assists in a 4-3 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15.

He's totaled seven goals while New York has scored 16 in the past four matchups. Brassard has two goals and six assists over a five-game point streak against the Leafs.

Antti Raanta is expected to get an opportunity to keep Toronto (20-26-9) scuffling as it opens a four-game homestand. Raanta has allowed at least four goals in three of his last four starts, but he's won his last two against the Leafs.

New York is 7-2-1 over its past 10 games at the Air Canada Centre.