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Rangers, Hurricanes carry momentum into matchup

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The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers may not make the playoffs this season, but they both appear eager to make it as difficult as possible for anyone else to reach the postseason.

A pair of teams looking to do more than play spoiler will face off Friday night when the New York Rangers host the Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden.

Both squads are coming off stirring victories.

The Rangers were off Thursday after coming back from a two-goal, third-period deficit to edge the visiting Boston Bruins 4-3 in a seven-round shootout Wednesday.

The Hurricanes will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set after earning a 6-5 overtime victory Thursday night against the host Buffalo Sabres.

The win over Boston snapped a two-game losing streak for the Rangers, who enter play Friday in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, nine points out of a wild-card spot. Despite the long odds, and with the looming trade deadline on Feb. 25 serving as a chance for upper management to continue its rebuilding project, New York remains focused on competing for a postseason berth.

“We are not willing to write off the year,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad told reporters following the Wednesday game. “We want to prove people wrong. We want to get better. And as a group, we are still playing for a spot in the playoffs. It would be weird not to.”

The Hurricanes continued improving their playoff hopes Thursday, when the win over the Sabres snapped a tie in the standings with Buffalo and lifted Carolina into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the second wild card.

Carolina’s frantic victory — the Hurricanes squandered a pair of two-goal leads, including one in the final five minutes of the third period, before Teuvo Teravainen scored 3:25 into overtime — symbolized what has been a roller coaster season for the Hurricanes. They endured four losing streaks of three games or longer before Christmas but are 12-4-1 in their past 17 games.

“I love this group, I’ve been saying it all year,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said postgame Thursday. “They’ve been kicked down a lot, had a lot of bad things happen and they just keep bouncing back. Even tonight, this game should have been over. We let them back in, and that could (have) easily been a way to just look the other way, But they found a way. I do appreciate the effort this group gives every night.”

A pair of No. 1 goalies, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and the Hurricanes’ Petr Mrazek, are likely to oppose each other Friday night.

Lundqvist, who sat Wednesday in favor of Alexandar Georgiev, last played Monday, when he took the loss after making 26 saves as the Rangers fell to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in overtime.

Mrazek, who backed up Curtis McElhinney on Thursday night, hasn’t played since Sunday, when he took the defeat after recording 28 saves in the Hurricanes’ 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Lundqvist is 29-11-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average in 40 career regular-season appearances against the Hurricanes. Mrazek is 2-1-0 with a 3.64 GAA in three career games against the Rangers.

–Field Level Media

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