By Nicolino Dibenedetto
NY Rangers (40-28-9) at Carolina (42-28-7), 7 p.m. EDT
RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) -- After closing out March with an
impressive road win over a division leader, the Carolina
Hurricanes look to set a franchise record for consecutive home
victories as they return to the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes attempt to push their home winning streak to 10
games Thursday night when they face a fellow playoff contender
in the New York Rangers.
Carolina (42-28-7) extended its overall winning streak to six
Saturday, beating Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey 2-1 to
close out a 10-1-2 month. That run is the Hurricanes' longest
since posting nine victories in a row from Dec. 31, 2005-Jan.
19, 2006, during their Stanley Cup-winning season.
The Hurricanes have been even more dominant at home of late,
tying a franchise mark with nine consecutive wins set in
2005-06. They'll play their next four games at Raleigh before
closing out the regular season on the road against the Devils on
Carolina has outscored opponents 35-13 during the home winning
"It's been huge, but it's important that we bear down for the
last five games," Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward said of the
late-season surge. "We haven't done anything yet, but we've
certainly set ourselves up for some success. We haven't clinched
yet, so we have to continue to fight."
Carolina is four points ahead of ninth-place Florida, which
trails the seventh-place Rangers (40-28-9) by two points. The
Panthers are off until Friday against Atlanta.
Ward, who made 31 saves Saturday, has played a big role in the
Hurricanes' winning streaks. He's won the team's last nine home
games, posting a 1.43 goals-against average with a shutout in
that span, and recorded a 1.83 GAA during the six-game overall
Ward is expected to make his career-high 25th consecutive start
Thursday after stopping 31 shots against the Devils. He's 16-6-2
with a 2.31 GAA and two shutouts in his previous 24 starts.
One of the shutouts came against New York at home March 9, when
Ward made 28 saves in a 3-0 win. He took the loss in the two
previous meetings this season, allowing five total goals in a
pair of road games.
The Rangers are also looking to improve their playoff chances
with five games to go. They're coming off a strong performance
in Monday's 3-0 victory over New Jersey.
"We're still fighting for our lives," said Rangers coach John
Tortorella, 9-5-2 since being hired Feb. 23 to replace the fired
Tom Renney. "We are just trying to find a way to get points."
Tortorella seems likely to give Henrik Lundqvist a third
consecutive start after he made 38 saves Monday for his third
shutout. The goaltender is 9-3-0 with a 2.17 GAA in his last 12
"For us to make the playoffs, and go anywhere in the postseason,
we are going to need him," Tortorella said.
Lundqvist won his only start against Carolina this season,
making 29 saves and four more in the shootout to secure a 3-2
win Dec. 13.
Ryan Callahan scored a goal Monday to continue his strong play
since Tortorella's hiring, as he has eight goals and four
assists in the last 16 games. The right wing is third on the
team with a career-high 21 goals, two behind co-leaders Markus
Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev.
Callahan, though, doesn't have a point in six games against