Preview: Rangers Meet Panthers at MSG

A day after they snapped a two-game losing streak thanks to Carl Hagelin‘s two-goal performance against the Buffalo Sabres, the Rangers are right back at it tonight against the Southeast Division leading Florida Panthers, looking for payback two weeks after the cats handed the Rangers a 2-1 loss in Florida.

Tonight’s back-to-back is the fourth of 14 total this season. Thus far, the Rangers are 2-0-1 in the second of the back-to-backs.

After dropping two-straight to snap a five-game losing streak, the Rangers took it to the Sabres last night, scoring two shorthanded goals in one period for the first time since 1997, and added a powerplay goal late in the 4-1 victory.

Defenseman Michael Sauer is expected to miss his third-straight game as he continues to be day-to-day with a concussion he suffered last week against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Anton Stralman will be in the lineup, taking Sauer’s place. Forward Artem Anisimov is expected to play following his nasty collision last night after smashing his face against the glass, and missing the final 12 minutes.

After blocking a puck with his hand last night, defenseman Ryan McDonagh said he is OK to play tonight.

If not for the Minnesota Wild, the Panthers have been the biggest surprise thus far in the NHL. After adding some questionable high-priced contracts to get to the cap-floor this summer, the Panthers have emerged as one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, and currently lead the Washington Capitals by six points in the division. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.

The Panthers are a quick, explosive team lead by one of the best lines in hockey, with Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weisse and Tomas Fleischmann, who have totaled 89 points as a unit.

Rangers: 16-6-4, 3rd place in Atlantic, 5th in Eastern Conference

Panthers: 16-8-5, 1st place in Southeast, 3rd in Eastern Conference

Update: Sean Avery will be a healthy scratch tonight. Erik Christensen, who has been a healthy scratch for eight-straight games, will get the start.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

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