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Rangers limp into Dallas to face Stars
DALLAS -- The New York Rangers not only lost 5-2 at Nashville on Saturday, but they also lost Marc Staal and Jimmy Vesey with upper-body injuries.
Losers of two straight, the Rangers (25-22-5, 55 points) are just 8-13-2 on the road and 3-7-0 over their past 10 games, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is quick to acknowledge things are far from well right now.
"Overall, it stinks, there's no question about it," Lundqvist said after Saturday's loss in Nashville. "We've been losing too much. Guys are out, but there's only one way to turn around. You got to just start with yourself, work really hard and not look for excuses. There's no question it's a tough time for us here, but there's no point of looking around the room or trying to find excuses."
New York was scheduled to practice Sunday before flying to Dallas, but that practice was canceled, meaning updates on the statuses of Staal and Vesey will have to wait until morning skate on Monday in advance of the Rangers' game with Dallas at American Airlines Center.
The Rangers made a roster move Sunday, recalling center Vinni Lettieri from AHL Hartford. Lettieri made his NHL debut in late December after New York signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota and scored in his league debut.
In 35 games with Hartford, Lettieri had 23 points (14 assists).
This will be New York's second and final regular-season game with Dallas. The Stars edged the Rangers 2-1 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden back on Dec. 11.
And New York coach Alain Vigneault speaks for his entire team in saying that a great way to start turning things around would be to defeat the Stars, who are 18-8-1 at home, in their own building.
"We've played some pretty good hockey (over the last month)," Vigneault said after Saturday's loss to the Predators. "We haven't gotten the results that I believe that some of that hockey should have gotten us. At the end of the day, results are what they are. We need to regroup here. We're going to work on getting better and then get ready for our next game."
However, the Rangers are 1-6-1 against the Central Division.
Dallas (30-19-4, 64 points), on the other hand, has won two straight and the Stars are an impressive 12-5-4 against the Eastern Conference this season, including a 5-3-3 mark against the Metropolitan Division.
And after the Stars blitzed Minnesota 6-1 at home on Saturday, first-year coach Ken Hitchcock made Sunday's practice optional.
"(Martin) Hanzal and (Marc) Methot took full-time participation," Hitchcock said Sunday. "Hanzal will be a game-time decision tomorrow (Monday), we'll find out on the day of the game. Methot now is a full participant with us right now (in practice), so we'll see after a few more practices how he looks later in the week."
Hitchcock said Ben Bishop, who sat out Saturday's game as a precaution with AHL call-up Landon Bow serving as Kari Lehtonen's backup against the Wild, will return to the pipes against the Rangers.
Bow was returned to AHL Texas on Sunday, and Hitchcock's reasoning for bringing Bishop back in was simple.
"Well, same philosophy, you don't come out with an injury. It was scheduled this way, that puts (Lehtonen) in in Chicago (later in the week) and then Ben (Bishop) back against Pittsburgh (on Friday)," Hitchcock said. "That's the plan moving forward. That was the plan last week and we don't want to get away from it. It's a philosophy here too organizationally, you go in or out based on performance, not on injury."
Hitchcock said he's sticking with the same defensive pairs from Saturday's win over the Wild.
Against Minnesota, Dallas' potent offensive trifecta of Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin, a 2018 NHL All-Star, combined for seven points.
Stars second-year center Mattias Janmark also had a goal against the Wild, giving Janmark six points (five goals) over his past six games.
"He's got quickness in small spaces, so he can get himself out of trouble. I think he's got good patience around the net," Hitchcock said of Janmark. "You're seeing him kill penalties and be aggressive, you're seeing him go to the net hard. His vision's back in the offensive zone, so he's starting to be comfortable on the ice and it's starting to show in the offensive performance."
Updated February 4, 2018
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