NHL

Hurricanes hope to start climb back into contention vs. Rangers

RALEIGH, N.C. -- There are all sorts of reasons for the New York Rangers to be feeling good about things this month.

But moving up higher in the standings is something that could really help the team's stock considering it sits in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.

The next chance to do that comes Thursday night against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

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The Rangers could be coming together at an ideal time.

"A lot of lines contributing there," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "That's a great sign. It gives a lot of confidence. We obviously want to keep the confidence rolling."

The Rangers have 88 team points compared to 62 for Carolina, but the teams are at extremes in terms of games played. New York has been in 67 games -- the most in the Eastern Conference -- while Carolina has played a league-low 62 games.

But even with all the games in hand, the Hurricanes have a monumental task if they're to climb into the playoff conversation.

They're coming off a 3-1 road loss Tuesday night at Colorado, which has the worst record in the NHL. Coach Bill Peters tried to find a bright spot.

"Our third period was probably our most dangerous," he said. "We've struggled to score during this five-game segment."

The Colorado game was a somewhat rare situation where the Hurricanes were hurt in special teams. The Avalanche scored on the only power-play chance for the team against Carolina's normally stingy penalty-killing group.

The Hurricanes had two chances on power plays and didn't convert.

"The specialty teams have hurt us," Peters said.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said his team's penalty-killing was a bit suspect Tuesday night at Florida. But with Henrik Lundqvist moving into the NHL's all-time top 10 list in victories with 404 they've had solutions.

"We're working hard in front of him," Vigneault said. "Our 5-on-5 game was good."

Thursday's game will be the fifth game in eight days for the Rangers, who are 3-1-0 this month. It's also their third outing in four nights, all on the road.

"So I've got to play four lines," Vigneault said.

The Rangers appear to be in a nice rhythm, with center Kevin Hayes saying a "good team spirit" exists.

Health issues have meant the Hurricanes have played for more than a week without left winger Brock McGinn and the past game minus left winger Phillip Di Giuseppe.

"You miss them because of the energy and the physicality they bring to the game," Peters said.

The Hurricanes could have right winger Valentin Zykov in the lineup for his NHL debut. The 21-year-old was called up from the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday after posting 15 goals for the American Hockey League team.

Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin will look to extend his streak of assists to six games. He has 22 total this season.

This begins a stretch of five home games in a six-game span for Carolina.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the teams this season. The Rangers have won twice, both times at home.