At a glance: With a seven-point lead in the East, the Rangers look to record their fifth straight win against a non-conference opponent. Riding a four-game winning streak – including Tuesday’s decisive 3-0 victory against the Bruins – the Rangers host the flailing Blackhawks, who have won only one of their last ten games. Chicago has dropped nine straight heading into Thursday’s Original Six match-up, the first meeting of the two teams this season.
Night off for Hank: Starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will get a breather Thursday night against the Blackhawks, a well-deserved respite after a tremendous 42-save shutout against Boston Tuesday. Martin Biron, who is 10-2-1 with two shutouts this season, will make his 14th start.
Nash report: Already the target of the NHL’s hottest trade talk, Rick Nash garnered even more attention Thursday when he missed practice with the Blue Jackets. While speculation mounted, his absence turned out to be innocuous. His agent confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the 27-year-old captain was merely taking a “maintenance” day. The Rangers are one of the handful of teams looking to make a deal for the talented winger; they’ll get a glimpse of him live Sunday when they host the Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden.
Fed-Ex’ed: Veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who has missed three games with an undisclosed injury, will sit out his fourth straight Thursday. Fedotenko has not played since being rocked Thursday by a high hit from Tampa Bay’s Dominic Moore, who was slapped with a $2,500 fine for the incident.
Back in blue: Forward Wojtek Wolski and defenseman Jeff Woywitka were recalled Wednesday after a two-week AHL conditioning stint with the team’s minor-league affiliate in Hartford, CT. Both players practiced during the team’ optional morning skate in Greenburgh, although neither will return to the lineup against the Blackhawks. Wolski, who has been limited to nine games this season, recorded three goals and 2 assists in 6 games with the Connecticut Whale.