The New York Rangers feel they're moving in the right direction. Extending their win streak against the Carolina Hurricanes could help solidify that belief.
As they continue trying to put their slow start behind them, the Rangers go for a ninth straight win against the Hurricanes on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
New York (5-7-0) opened by losing six of its first eight games under first-year coach Alain Vigneault, though a nine-game road trip to start the season didn't help matters.
The team has shown improvement with three wins in its last four games, including what may have been its best effort of the season in a 2-0 win over Buffalo on Thursday.
After having trouble finding the net during their lengthy road trip, the Rangers were much more aggressive with 46 shots against the Sabres.
"I think the last couple of weeks, we really stepped our game up," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 29 saves for his second shutout. "I think we're getting more and more comfortable the way we play as a team, trust the system and each other. We're moving in the right direction."
That turnaround may continue against Carolina (4-6-3), which has allowed 31 goals against New York during its eight-game skid in the series.
Lundqvist has been in net for five of those meetings, compiling a 1.73 goals-against average. He's been particularly dominant while winning his last three home games against the Hurricanes, posting a 0.96 GAA and .969 save percentage.
The opponent hasn't mattered much when Lundqvist is in net at MSG. His 2.12 GAA and 33 shutouts are franchise records there.
Brad Richards doesn't have a point in two home games this season, but his five goals and seven assists are team highs. The center has fared well versus Carolina with four goals and five assists over the last eight meetings, earning five of those points in three games at the Garden.
Chris Kreider has one goal in each of the last two games, matching his total from 23 games last season.
The Hurricanes have been outscored 13-4 during a four-game slide, their longest since dropping seven in a row from April 1-11.
Their recent struggles continued with Friday's 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay, and injuries are certainly having an impact.
Carolina has six players on injured reserve, including forwards Jeff Skinner (upper-body) and Radek Dvorak (lower-body), and goaltender Cam Ward (lower-body).
"No one is going to feel sorry for us," coach Kirk Muller said. "We just have to man up."
That mantra could give another start to Justin Peters, who had 29 saves Friday. He has a 3.10 GAA while losing all four appearances since Ward got hurt last month.
If Peters is given a chance to rest, Muller could give Mike Murphy his first NHL start. A sixth-round pick in 2008, Murphy has made two appearances, but they came back in 2011-12.
Still, the onus may be on the offensive end and production from Eric Staal would help. The center has gone scoreless in five straight games and hasn't registered a point in the last three.
A meeting with his brother - Rangers defenseman Marc Staal - could provide some added motivation to end the slump. Eric Staal has eight points over his last six meetings with New York.
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