The New York Rangers look to get back to their winning ways Thursday night as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers and Lightning have played two times previously this year, and they have split the games with the home team losing each time.
The Rangers have a 2-1-1 record in their four games since returning from the All-Star break, the two losses coming to their division rivals the New Jersey Devils. The Lightning are also 2-1-1 since returning from the break, their latest game a loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Tampa on Tuesday.
Both of these teams are in very different positions in their divisions and in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are holding onto first place in the Atlantic Division with a four-point lead, as well as first place in the entire Eastern Conference with a three-point lead over the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins.
The Lightning, on the other hand, are fourth in the Southeast Division, nine points behind the leading Washington Capitals. They are also 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, 10 points out of a playoff spot.
There is also a great disparity between how the Rangers play at home and how the Lightning play on the road. The Rangers hold a 16-6-2 record at Madison Square Garden, while the Lightning hold an awful 8-16-3 record on the road.
It appears that the game should be in the Rangers' favor, with the way they play at home compared to how the Lightning play on the road, but it won't be that simple. The Lightning have extremely good scorers up and down their lineup, their greatest being the NHL's leading goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, while the Rangers have not been playing particularly stellar as of late.
They have gotten into the habit of not being able to score again, and the power play appears to be worse than usual. Rangers coach John Tortorella has tried his best since the break to rearrange his lines in order to try to find some pairs that will create scoring opportunities, but he has yet to find any that will sustain scoring over a period of more than a game.
One knock on the Lightning is that they do give up a lot more goals than they score, and with Henrik Lundqvist in net for the Rangers, scoring will be no easy feat, even for someone as talented as Stamkos. Who knows what Thursday night's will bring?
Will the Rangers get back to their winning ways and stop their losing streak, or will the Lightning?