New York Rangers vs. Phoenix Coyotes, 7:00 PM at Madison Square Garden
Where to Watch: MSG Network
Where to Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio
Live In-Game Chat: 6:45 PM on BlueshirtsUnited.com
Following three days off between games, the Rangers (26-9-4, 56 pts) begin a busy stretch that will see them play four games in six nights, beginning with Tuesday's home-ice tilt against the Phoenix Coyotes (20-17-5, 45 pts). The Blueshirts are surging heading into play Tuesday having won four straight games, and nine of their last ten. Their latest surge has pushed the Rangers to a one-point lead over the Canucks for first place overall in the NHL, to a three-point edge over the Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and to a four-point bulge over the Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division. Since December 10th, the Rangers have allowed more than two goals in a game only twice, a span of 14 games, as the Blueshirts cewment themselves as one of the league's elite defensive teams. Currently only the Boston Bruins have allowed fewer than the 82 goals the Rangers have surrendered so far this season. Coming off a 5-1 win over the Islanders on home ice on Saturday---fueled by team captain Shane Doan's first NHL hat trick---the Coyotes start a stretch of three road games in four nights tonight at The Garden, before moving on to Detroit and Columbus later this week. Phoenix is 4-4-2 in its ten games since dropping a last-second decision to the Rangers out in the desert back on December 17th.
The Rangers earned a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Coyotes on December 17th out in Phoenix on a Brad Richards' backhander with 0.1 seconds left to play. That goal capped a third-period comeback from a 2-1 deficit which began with Marian Gaborik's second goal of the game. His first goal in the contest was the 300th of Gaborik's NHL career. Martin Biron, who made 21 saves in that December 17th victory, has started---and won---the last two games the Rangers have played against Phoenix, including a 4-3 shootout win at The Garden on December 16, 2010. Overall the Rangers have won seven of their last nine meetings with the Coyotes.
"That last result is not going to affect this game. That's a pretty tricky team with a lot of skilled guys that we don't see that often. So that will be a challenge for us. It's going to be a tough game because they've been playing pretty well. Plus we know we can play better, too. We can always keep improving."-Henrik Lundqvist
By The Numbers
The Rangers' .718 winning percentage is the fourth best start in franchise history through 39 games, and best since the 1993-94 Stanley Cup season when the Blueshirts started out 27-9-3 for a .731 winning percentage.
Phoenix captain Shane Doan had played 16 NHL seasons and 1,161 games, and scored 308 goals, before finally notching his first career hat trick in Saturday's 5-1 win over the Islanders. He has 38 two-goal games in his NHL career.
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