|Rangers look to right ship versus Senators|
After winning six straight games, the New York Rangers have dropped two in a row. They will look to avoid a third straight loss when they host the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
The Rangers (9-9-2) have allowed 85 shots the past two games in losses to the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets, a departure from the defensive improvement they showed in their winning streak. Henrik Lundqvist, however, wasn't at fault in the Rangers' 2-0 loss to the Blue Jackets on Friday, as he stopped 40 shots.
The problem was the Rangers played defensively like they did during their 2-6-2 start, allowing too many quality chances and not generating enough of their own.
"At the end of the day, it's not good enough," Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said to the New York Post after the loss in Columbus. "We have to create more. We have to get on the inside, get some pucks through, and make some plays.
"We didn't deserve to win today. They were the better team."
Brendan Smith, who signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason, was a healthy scratch for six consecutive games before returning to the lineup against the Blue Jackets.
"That's the hardest thing to do," Smith said to the New York Daily News. "Whenever you've sat, for whatever period it's been, you want to kind of prove yourself that you should be there on a day-to-day basis, but you've got to play your own game. So there is that happy medium."
Smith was on the ice for one of the Blue Jackets goals but is plus-6 in 5-on-5 on-ice shot attempts, a sign he could continue to help against the Senators on Sunday. Ottawa is coming off a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes -- the league's worst team -- on Saturday night.
The Senators held a 2-1 lead in the third period and allowed the Coyotes to win their fourth game of the season.
"We didn't come away with the result that we wanted. That's on us. This is a team that we should beat, if you look at the standings," Senators captain Erik Karlsson said to the Ottawa Sun. "They did a great job. They played well. You've got to give credit to them because they played smart and capitalized on their opportunities.
"I don't think we played a poor game, but we need to be a lot better. We've got to realize that, even when things are going well, we've got to keep pushing and not be satisfied. This game slipped way for us."
The Senators (8-4-6) haven't won on North American ice since Nov. 1, when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in Ottawa. They have two wins since, both coming in Sweden against the Colorado Avalanche.
Making matters worse, the Senators are starting a stretch of 10 of 11 on the road and will do so without defenseman Chris Wideman, who could miss the rest of the season with a torn hamstring. Wideman only averaged about 11 minutes of ice time per game, but his eight points were third among defenders on the team.
"He's out for months. It's not good at all. We have to wait to find out how many. It's a definite tear and it's not a good one," Boucher said to the Ottawa Sun before the Senators lost Saturday. "We have to wait for more information from doctors to specify how long and what the procedure is going to be. He got really unlucky on that one."
The Rangers will play four of their next five at home and will be in the same boat as the Senators on Sunday -- two struggling teams looking to respond after tough losses.
"I don't think it's a huge downer for our team," Marc Staal said of the loss to the Blue Jackets to the New York Daily News, "but we've got to respond here at home."