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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, December 31st (All times Eastern)
New York Rangers (19-19-2) at Florida Panthers (15-20-5), 5 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers expect to have Marc Staal back on Tuesday when they take aim at their fourth win in five games in Tuesday's road test against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.
Staal has missed the last 10 games after suffering a concussion against New Jersey on Dec. 7, but head coach Alain Vigneault announced after practice on Monday that the defenseman is ready to return to action.
"He's been working real hard for a couple of weeks, skated during the Christmas break, and he feels he's in good condition," Vigneault told his team's official website. "So I told him if he feels good to go we're going to play him."
Staal, who missed the last 36 games of the 2011-12 season due to a concussion, has two goals and an assist in 30 contests this season.
Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman could also be back Tuesday after missing New York's last game with a wrist injury.
The Rangers have won three of their last four outings and are coming off Sunday's 4-3 decision in Tampa. New York went 3-for-3 on the power play as it held on for the close victory in Central Florida.
Mats Zuccarello had a goal and two assists to lead New York's offense, while Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot also scored.
"The guys moved the puck real well and when they had the opportunity to throw it at the net they did and good things usually happen," said Vigneault about his team's power play.
"It was obviously a difference-maker tonight."
Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves for the Rangers on Sunday and he'll try to post victories in consecutive starts tonight for the first time since he beat Pittsburgh and Florida on Nov. 6 and 10, respectively.
Lundqvist is 2-0 against Florida this season and expects to get the start on Tuesday. He made 24 saves to help the Rangers beat a visiting Panthers team on Nov. 10 and stopped 31-of-33 shots in a 5-2 triumph at Florida on Nov. 27. The Swedish netminder is 17-9-1 with a 1.79 goals against average in 27 career games against the Panthers.
The Rangers have won three of four and six of the last eight overall meetings against Florida. The Panthers have taken three of the past five encounters in Sunrise.
Florida last played on Sunday when it halted a three-game slide with a 4-1 decision against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Brian Campbell tallied a goal and an assist to help the Panthers earn their first win on a five-game homestand. Florida began the residency with consecutive regulation losses and allowed 10 goals over those two setbacks before holding Montreal to just one goal on Sunday.
Scott Clemmensen made 21 saves for the win and he improved to 8-1-0 in his career against Montreal.
"I think it's a team that we've matched up well against for whatever reason," said Clemmensen.
Dmitry Kulikov and Aleksander Barkov also scored for Florida, while Sean Bergenheim added an empty-netter with 17 seconds left in regulation for the final margin.
Florida is 8-9-3 as the host this season, while the Rangers are 11-9-0 as the visiting team.
12/31 10:57:15 ET
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