At a glance: Riding a five-game winning streak, the league-leading Rangers host the surging Senators at Madison Square Garden for the second time this season. Last time around, the Senators prevailed in a 5-4 shootout win, but the Rangers have been terrific at home since. The 27-9-4 Blueshirts boast an impressive 13-3-2 record at MSG, their best start at home through 18 games since 1995-96. The Senators -- 7-1-2 in their last ten games -- have recorded two straight wins to secure the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Still on top: With 58 points overall, The Rangers retain a one-point margin over the Vancouver Canucks in the league standings, with four games in hand. Winners in ten of their last 11 games, the Rangers are off to their best start in 40 years. It is also the first time in franchise history the team has four winning streaks of five games or more in the first 40 games of the season.
Star-studded: Thursday’s match features a bevy of players headed to the All-Star Game in Ottawa later this month. The hosting Senators lead the league with four starters -- Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson – featured in the festivities. The Rangers will send three players – Marian Gaborik, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist.
Game-time decision: Forward Brandon Dubinsky is a game-time decision. Dubinsky did not practice with the team Wednesday; coach John Tortorella said the 25-year-old winger was “sore.” Dubinsky exited the ice in the first period of Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix after being smashed into the boards by Coyotes’ Taylor Pyatt. Dubinsky, who reportedly suffered a shoulder injury on the play, did not appear on the Rangers bench to begin the second period, but returned for his second shift.
Will he or won’t he? : If Dubinsky is not available to play, Wojtek Wolski will replace him in the lineup. The 26-year-old winger has not played since forced to undergo sports hernia surgery in November. If Dubinsky is available, however, Wolski will have a decision to make. The Rangers have discussed the possibility of sending down Wolski for a two-week conditioning stint with the team’s minor-league affiliate in Hartford, Conn. Scratched for ten games straight, Erik Christensen accepted such an assignment Wednesday.
Karlsson questionable: Karlsson, who missed Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh with an upper-body injury, is expected to play Thursday. Senators coach Paul MacLean told reporters Wednesday he thinks Karlsson “should be fine.”
Bottom line: Looking to make it six straight, the Rangers face a formidable test from a surprising Senators team that is playing well and jockeying for a playoff position.