February 08, 2015

The New York Rangers won the Presidents' Trophy last season, and the Dallas Stars are leading the current race.

Both teams haven't looked worthy of such an accomplishment lately.

The Stars attempt to snap a four-game road skid by capitalizing on the struggling Rangers in the finale of their trek through the New York metropolitan area.

Dallas (28-9-4) unexpectedly owns the most points in the NHL after missing the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons.

Part of the Stars' improvement stems from starting the season with an 11-2-1 road record. However, they've lost six of their last seven (1-3-3) away from home, including a 3-2 overtime defeat to New Jersey a day before falling 6-5 to the New York Islanders on Sunday.

"We haven't played our best, obviously," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "We're mentally not there. We have to reset and reset quick. We have a bunch of games coming up."

The Stars are 2-2-2 during a hectic nine-game, 15-day stretch coming out of the Christmas break.

"When you are playing a lot of games in a few days your discipline and attention to detail isn't good," coach Lindy Ruff told the team's official website. "We have gotten away from some of the mental parts of the game that we have been so good at."

The Rangers (21-14-4) are having their own problems, going 5-11-2 after a 13-1-1 tear in their previous 15 games. They've dropped five of their last seven after losing 3-0 at Florida on Saturday, but coach Alain Vigneault feels there are reasons for optimism.

"I have seen some signs of us steering in the right direction," he said. "Our chance against totals are down. We're playing a more physical brand game right now. I think we're generating more pucks and attention to the other team's net. Our power play has been a good weapon for us.

"I'm seeing us trending in the right direction. We need to put it together. There's no doubt that we have a few players playing sub-par of their capabilities without naming anybody."

Henrik Lundqvist is a major culprit, compiling a 3.99 goals-against average while going 3-5-0 and getting pulled in three of his last nine games. He matched his season-low with 17 saves Saturday, giving him 11 losses - two shy of his total from all of last season.

Lundqvist's 2.51 GAA is the highest of his career.

"We need Hank to re-become the Hank that he's used to," Vigneault said. "I think everything from there should fall into place."

Lundqvist has won four of his last six starts against Dallas behind a 1.99 GAA.

The Stars, however, won both matchups with the Rangers last season, including a 3-2 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 8.

Jason Spezza scored a goal and set up the other two in that win. The center has at least one goal in each of his last four visits to MSG, totaling five with three assists.

He has 11 points over the past nine games after getting three in the first two games of this trip.

Jamie Benn, the NHL scoring leader with 24 goals, has no points in seven career meetings with New York, while Tyler Seguin has four in his 15 matchups.

Seguin's 23 goals are tied with two others for second.

Cris Kreider missed practice Monday and is listed as doubtful after suffering a cut on his hand in a fight with Florida's Brandon Pirri, according to the team's official website.

"It's a cut we can't stitch together because of where it is," Vigneault said.

Emerson Etem is Kreider's likely replacement on the second line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash.

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