At a glance: The Rangers take a two-game winning streak and six straight road victories into Tampa Monday night, looking to continue their roll against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Without their star player Steven Stamkos, the Bolts have faltered a bit – 0-3-1 in their recent, but they remain tied with the 3rd-place Toronto Maple Leafs with 29 points and a 14-8-1 record. Since their difficult trip to the West Coast, the Lightning play five of their next six games at home beginning with Monday’s match against the Blueshirts.
Looking good: The Rangers have kicked off a five-game road swing with a pair of wins against Western Conference opponents. After knocking off the Stars 3-2 on Thursday night, the Blueshirts followed up with a win against the Predators in Nashville thanks to backup netminder Cam Talbot’s second straight shutout performance. Starter Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be back between the pipes Monday against the Lightning; the 31-year-old former Vezina Trophy winner also has a pair of shutouts on the season and is coming off a season-high 41-save effort in Dallas. The Rangers’ goaltending has been a big part of the team’s success of late as New York has held opponents to two goals or fewer in 15 of the last 18 games.
Still without Stamkos: Since their superstar center went down with a ghastly leg injury in a game against the Boston Bruins November 11, Tampa Bay has won only two games. To get an idea of what an impact Stamkos has on the team’s overall offense, consider this: the 23-year-old remains in third place among the league’s top goal-scorers (14) despite already missing six games. It is not immediately clear when Stamkos is eligible to return, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper recently expressed confidence that he will return this season.
Miller time?: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said last week that forward JT Miller would get a chance to play “in the near future” though the 20-year-old forward has been scratched in three straight games. Vigneault may be hard-pressed to change his lineup after two consecutive road victories, but the Rangers may be keen on making a decision soon on whether to keep the talented young prospect up with the big club or send him back to the minors for more seasoning.