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New York RangersNEW YORK RANGERS vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Thursday, Jan. 5, 7:00 p.m.
Madison Square GardenNew York, New York
Rangers: 24-9-4 (52 pts)
Panthers: 20-12-7 (47 pts)
* All information through NHL games on Jan. 3

TOMORROW’S GAME:

The Rangers will face-off against the Florida Panthers tomorrow at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), to begin a back-to-back set. The Blueshirts currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, and rank first in the league overall, with a record of 24-9-4 (52 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, on Monday in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and have won seven of their last eight games. New York has posted a record of 21-6-2 since Oct. 29, after beginning the season with a 3-3-2 mark. The Panthers enter the contest with a 20-12-7 (47 pts) record to rank third in the Eastern Conference, and have lost each of their last four road games. This will be the second meeting in six days between the Rangers and Panthers, with New York having defeated Florida, 4-1, on Friday at BankAtlantic Center to take a 2-1-0 series lead. Following tomorrow’s contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, Jan. 6, at CONSOL Energy Center (7:00 p.m.), to conclude their back-to-back set.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

* TV: MSG Network
6:30 p.m. – Rangers Pre-Game Show with Al Trautwig and Brian Leetch
7:00 p.m. – Rangers vs. Panthers
Broadcasters: Sam Rosen (Play-By-Play), Joe Micheletti (Analyst), John Giannone (In-Game Reporter)

* Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio and NewYorkRangers.com
6:30 p.m. – Rangers Pre-Game Show
7:00 p.m. – Rangers vs. Panthers
Broadcaster: Kenny Albert (Play-By-Play), Dave Maloney (Analyst)

RANGERS vs. PANTHERS:

* All-Time: 40-26-6-4 overall (20-13-4-0 at home; 20-13-2-4 on the road)

* 2011-12: Tonight is the fourth and final meeting this season, and the second of two at Madison Square Garden. New York is 2-1-0 overall and 1-0-0 at home. The Rangers have out-scored the Panthers, 11-4, in the series. The Blueshirts are 2-8 (25.0%) on the power play and 14-15 (93.3%) on the penalty kill in three games. Derek Stepan leads all skaters with three goals and four points in the season series, while Ryan McDonagh has tallied a series-high, three assists. Henrik Lundqvist is 2-1-0 with a 1.34 GAA and .954 Sv% in three games.

* Last Season: New York was 2-2-0 overall, with a 1-1-0 mark at home. Three of their four meetings resulted in a shutout, including two for the Rangers. New York’s power play tallied two goals in nine attempts (22.2%) in the season series. Brandon Prust and Derek Stepan each notched a team-high, two goals, while Henrik Lundqvist posted a record of 2-1-0 with a 1.35 GAA, .949 Sv% and two shutouts in three appearances.

* The Rangers have won seven of their last 10 games against the Panthers, having out-scored Florida, 28-14, over the span

* New York ranks 14th with an 11-3-2 (24 pts) record at home; Florida ranks eighth with a 10-8-2 (22 pts) mark on the road

* The Rangers have posted an 8-2-1 record vs. Southeast Division opponents; the Panthers are 5-4-1 vs. the Atlantic Division

* Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 14-7-1 record with a 1.74 GAA and five shutouts in 22 career regular season contests vs. Florida; Martin Biron is 7-12-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA in 21 career regular season games vs. the Panthers

* Brad Richards leads the Rangers with 16 goals, 27 assists and 43 points in 49 career regular season contests vs. Florida; Derek Stepan has tallied five goals and six points in seven career regular season games vs. the Panthers

* New York lists one former Panther on their roster: Steve Eminger (2008-09)

* Florida lists one former Ranger on their roster: Mikael Samuelsson (2001-02 – 2002-03)

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Rangers rank seventh in the NHL with a plus-five rating on special teams [(PPG+SHG)-(PPGA+SHGA)]. New York is 12-65 (18.5%) with the man advantage in the last 19 games. The Blueshirts’ penalty kill has held their opponent scoreless in each of their last four games (11-11, 100.0%), and are 36-40 (90.0%) with four shorthanded goals in the last 13 contests. The Rangers are tied for third in the NHL with five shorthanded goals. The Blueshirts have posted a record of 14-1-2 in games when tallying a power play goal, and are 16-4-2 when holding their opponent scoreless on the power play.

* Power Play: The Rangers did not tally a goal in one power play attempt (0:49) on Monday at Philadelphia. New York is tied for 21st overall (21-139, 15.1%) and ninth at home (14-70, 20.0%). The Rangers are 2-12 (8:51) in five-on-three situations (last – 12/23 vs. PHI), and 0-4 (3:46) when four-on-three (last – 11/3 vs. ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (3): 12/5 vs. TOR (Steckel); 12/8 vs. TBL (Moore); 12/17 at PHX (Korpikoski).

* Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Flyers scoreless in two shorthanded situations (2:49) on Monday at Philadelphia. New York ranks sixth overall (113-131, 86.3%) and seventh at home (47-54, 87.0%). The Rangers are 5-6 (3:26) in three-on-five situations (last – 12/17 at PHX), and 0-1 (1:17) when three-on-four (last – 10/7 at LAK). Shorthanded goals for (5): 10/20 at CGY (Prust); 12/8 vs. TBL (Anisimov); 12/10 at BUF (Hagelin); 12/10 at BUF (Callahan); 12/20 at NJD (Hagelin).

* Four-on-Four: New York did not tally/yield a goal in two four-on-four situations (2:17) on Monday at Philadelphia. The Rangers are plus-three in 38 four-on-four situations (65:53), and even in one three-on-three situation (0:01). Four-on-four goals for (3): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh); 10/27 vs. TOR (Girardi). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).

BACK-TO-BACKS:

The Rangers will begin their sixth of 14 back-to-back sets this season tonight vs. Florida at Madison Square Garden. New York has posted a record of 4-0-1 (2-0-0 at home, 2-0-1 on the road) in the first game of the set, and are 4-0-1 (4-0-0 at home, 0-0-1 on the road) in the second game. Since 2009-10, New York is 25-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 13-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-2 on the road over the span. Henrik Lundqvist has started on consecutive days 56 times in his career, posting a record of 35-14-7 with a 1.82 GAA, .935 Sv% and six shutouts in the second game. The Rangers will complete the back-to-back set tomorrow at Pittsburgh.

PLACE IN HISTORY:

The Rangers’ .703 winning percentage (24-9-4) is the team’s best start through 37 games since their 1993-94 Stanley Cup Championship season (26-8-3, .743 win%), and is tied for fourth best start in franchise history. *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau

HOME SWEET HOME:

The Blueshirts’ 11-3-2 (24 pts) mark at MSG is their best start at home through 16 games since 1995-96 (12-2-2, 26 pts).

WORLD JUNIOR UPDATE:

Rangers’ prospects J.T. Miller (USA) and Peter Ceresnak (Slovakia) are currently competing at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta, Canada.

* Miller is tied for eighth on USA in scoring with four points (two goals, two assists), fifth with a plus-three rating and ranks sixth with 16 shots on goal. Team USA defeated Latvia, 12-2, on Tuesday, and will complete their tournament play against Switzerland in a relegation round match-up today.

* Ceresnak has registered two shots on goal in five contests with Slovakia, who was defeated by Finland, 8-5, in a Quarterfinal match-up on Monday. Slovakia will face-off against the Czech Republic in the Fifth Place game today.

MEASURING UP:

The Rangers rank among the league leaders in several statistical categories, including:

* T-1st in points (52)
* 1st in win% (.703)
* T-2nd in wins (24)
* T-2nd in regulation/overtime wins (23)
* 1st in fewest regulation losses (nine)
* 2nd in fewest goals against (76)
* 2nd in GAA (2.05)
* 3rd in hits (1,010)
* 7th in blocked shots (598)
* 3rd in +/- rating (plus-30)
* 4th in goal differential (plus-31)

QUICK HITS:

* The last time the Rangers sat atop the Eastern Conference standings this late into the season was Mar. 15, 1996 (game #68). *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau

* New York has registered at least one point in 23 of their last 29 games (21-6-2), dating back to Oct. 29, after beginning the season with a 3-3-2 mark; The Rangers have out-scored their opponent, 94-61, during the stretch

* New York is 7-1-1 when leading after the first period and 15-0-2 when leading after the second

* The Rangers lead the league with a .300 win% when trailing after two periods (3-6-1), and their three third period comeback victories are tied for sixth in the NHL

* New York leads the NHL with a .786 win% when out-shooting their opponent (11-3-0)

* The Rangers lead the league when scoring first, posting an 18-1-1 mark (.900 win%) in those contests; Their 18 wins rank third in the NHL

INDIVIDUAL NOTES:

* Henrik Lundqvist enters the contest with a five-game winning streak, posting a 1.20 GAA, .962 Sv% and one shutout over the span

* Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 19 games this season, and is 15-4-1 with a 1.74 GAA, .942 Sv% and two shutouts over the last two months (20 games)

* Lundqvist ranks third in the NHL in GAA (1.92), fourth in Sv% (.937) and is tied for fifth in wins (17) and shutouts (three)

* Martin Biron has held opponents to two or fewer goals in six of his nine starts this season

* Marian Gaborik has tallied eight points (seven goals, one assist) and a plus-seven rating in the last eight games

* Gaborik is tied for second in the NHL with 22 goals

* Michael Del Zotto has tallied 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in the last 18 games, including six points (two goals, four assists) in the last six contests

* Del Zotto leads all NHL defensemen and ranks second in the league overall with a plus-25 rating

* Ryan Callahan enters the contest with a five-game point streak (one goal, five assists over the span), including a four-game assist streak (five assists)

* Callahan has recorded 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in the last 19 games

* Brandon Dubinsky enters the contest with a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist over the span), and has tallied six points (three goals, three assists) in the last six games

* Brad Richards has notched the game-winning goal in two straight games entering tonight’s contest, and now ranks second in the NHL with six game-winning goals

* Marc Staal made his season debut in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Monday after missing the first 36 games of the season with a concussion suffered last season

* Carl Hagelin has tallied four points (three goals, one assist) in the last four games, and four goals in the last seven contests

* Stu Bickel has tallied four assists in seven games since being recalled on Dec. 18

* Anton Stralman has tallied four assists in the last six games, has posted a plus-nine rating in the last seven and has logged 20:00+ of ice time in six of the last nine contests

MILESTONES IN SIGHT:

* Brandon Dubinsky: 2 points from 200th NHL career
* Marian Gaborik: 1 assist from 300th NHL career
* Dan Girardi: 3 assists from 100th NHL career

MILESTONES RECENTLY ACHIEVED:

* Artem Anisimov: 200th career NHL game (12/30 at FLA)

INJURIES:

* Wojtek Wolski (groin, 11/3) – 26
* Michael Sauer (concussion, 12/5) – 13
* Steve Eminger (shoulder, 12/17) – 7
Total Man-Games Lost: 118

RECENT TRANSACTIONS:

* Dec. 28 – Assigned defenseman Tim Erixon to Connecticut (AHL)
* Dec. 31 – Assigned forward Sean Avery to Connecticut (AHL)

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