(AP) — Losing eight of 10 has the New York Rangers reeling, and now they’re dealing with another injury to Marian Gaborik.
The Carolina Hurricanes have already capitalized on the oft-injured right wing’s absence this season.
With Gaborik expected to be out again, the Rangers will try to avoid a third consecutive loss when they visit the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
New York (31-26-4) is sputtering through a 2-7-1 stretch that has seen the team held to two goals or fewer in six of those games, including two shutouts.
The Rangers’ struggling offense suffered a major blow when Gaborik left Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Philadelphia after the first period due to a concussion. Coach John Tortorella claimed this was an ongoing issue.
“It didn’t happen this game, I’m not sure when it happened,” Tortorella said. “He’s been off and on. I don’t know when it happened.
“Gaborik was playing along. I know he’s had some conversations off the ice, he just wasn’t dead on.”
Gaborik is having a down season with 17 goals and 21 assists after leading the Rangers with 42 and 44, respectively, in 2009-10. He has two goals in 13 games since scoring four in a 7-0 win over Toronto on Jan. 19.
Various injuries have sidelined Gaborik for 14 games this season. New York is 7-6-1 without him, including a 4-1 loss at Carolina (28-24-8) on Jan. 20, the Rangers’ fourth defeat in five meetings.
The Hurricanes are 2-0-1 in the season series, and hold the eighth playoff position in the Eastern Conference, two points back of the seventh-place Rangers.
“We liked our three games against the Rangers this year,” coach Paul Maurice told the Hurricanes’ official website. “The first one was a goaltending festival, and the other two have been really hard-fought, hard-grinding games.”
Carolina is also on a sluggish stretch, dropping seven of its last 10 (3-5-2) after falling 4-1 to New Jersey on Saturday.
Jeff Skinner has four goals and two assists over the last eight games, but failed to get a point against the Devils. The rookie scoring leader with 46 points, Skinner has three goals and two assists in three games against the Rangers.
Cam Ward has also thrived against New York, going 6-2-1 with a 1.54 goals-against average and one shutout in his past nine meetings after making 39 saves in the most recent matchup.
The Hurricanes could be without defenseman Joni Pitkanen for a second consecutive game due to an undisclosed lower-body injury. He’s second on the team among defensemen with 26 points, and would likely be replaced by Derek Joslin, who made his team debut Saturday after being acquired from San Jose a day prior.
“He’s big and he’s strong, and he’ll move people from the front of the net and he does possess a powerful shot,” Maurice said. “As he gets more comfortable here and we get to know him a little bit better, I’m sure he’s going to be fine.”
If Gaborik is out for any stretch of time, Brandon Dubinsky will take on an even greater role for New York. The center leads the team with 43 points, but has none in the last two games and failed to record a shot Sunday.
Dubinsky, who hasn’t scored a goal in four contests, has three goals and one assist in his last five visits to RBC Center.
Updated February 22, 2011
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