Overview
The Rangers continue their season-high six-game road trip tonight, when they faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa (7:30 p.m.), in the first game of a back-to-back set. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, and 10th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 34-32-10 (78 pts.). The Rangers enter tonight’s contest having defeated the New York Islanders, 4-3, on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum, to improve to 2-0-1 on their current road trip and 3-0-1 in the last four games overall. The Lightning enter the contest with a 31-34-12 (74 pts.) record to rank 12th in the Eastern Conference. Following tonight’s contest, the Rangers return to action on Saturday, when they will faceoff against the Florida Panthers, completing the Florida sweep.

Game Notes
With two days off following a win over the Islanders, the hype for tonight’s match-up with the Lightning couldn’t be higher. Everything that needed to happen last night for the Rangers actually did happen: the Bruins, Flyers, and Thrashers all lost. On Friday night, the Rangers can gain serious ground in the Eastern Conference standings. The opportunity is right there for the taking. Atlanta and Boston seem to be hesitant in taking advantage of that opportunity. The Rangers need to step up tonight, as everything has fallen into place. The Blueshirts have a game in hand on the Flyers, Canadiens and Bruins, and two in hand on the Thrashers. The Lightning are returning from a 2-2-0 road trip and are in a 1-4-0 slump at home. The Rangers must capitalize.

Prediction
Everything is aligning perfectly for a Rangers’ playoff push. Henrik Lundqvist is 9-3-0 with a 1.90 GAA lifetime against Tampa Bay, and forward Vaclav Prospal has two goals and two assists in his last three games against the Lightning. The Blueshirts beat the Bolts, 3-1.

Shot Calling – Gaborik and Prospal, each with a goal

Photo Credit: AP/Bill Kostroun