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TIME: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will look for their fifth straight victory and ninth in a row at home when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
There is a chance they will look to extend both streaks without captain and top defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who has missed the past three games with an abdominal injury. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault did not give an update on McDonagh's status after a 4-3 shootout win against the Canucks on Sunday, and with the team off Monday, the veteran's status for the Panthers game was up in the air.
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Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk have carried the load in McDonagh's absence. They led the Rangers in ice time Sunday, with Shattenkirk scoring a goal to extend the shootout with his team facing defeat.
"AV called me about a second before, so there wasn't much time," Shattenkirk said of the preparation before his attempt. "I've been in that situation a couple times, I think that helps, knowing the stakes and how you're going to feel going into it. You really want to make sure that you're committing to what you want to do and just following through with it 100 percent. I think that's what I did."
After a 2-6-2 start, the Rangers are 11-3-0 in their past 14 games. Even with that red-hot run, New York is barely hanging onto a playoff spot in the East. One of the dangers the Rangers are looking to avoid is complacency, because they are still digging themselves out of the hole they created in their first 10 games.
"Even though you're winning, you always want to improve," New York right winger Mats Zuccarello told the New York Post. "You want to get better every day. So, I think that's important that we're not satisfied and not happy. Every day is a new day and every game is a new game."
The Panthers (9-12-2) sit above only the Buffalo Sabres in the East, this after newly reinstated general manager Dale Tallon revamped the roster in the offseason after a one-year absence from the job. Florida does have three victories in its past six games after a 3-2 road win against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.
The Panthers, who took advantage of a Devils team playing its seventh game in 12 days, hope this is the start of a much-needed turnaround.
"After the way the first 20 games have gone, we definitely have something to prove to the rest of the league," Florida forward Vincent Trocheck told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I think teams are going to take us a little bit lightly right now. We haven't played the way we wanted to from the start of the season until right now."
The Panthers outshot the Devils 31-10 over the first two periods but had to weather the storm in the third period, as New Jersey rallied from down a goal twice before Jared McCann scored the deciding goal. However, when the Panthers face New York on Tuesday, they will be the weary team facing a rested squad.
"The first two periods probably were our best of the year," Florida goalie Roberto Luongo said. "They had a push there in the third, but it was nice we were able to respond every time and come back and score. All in all, it was a good effort by our guys."