March 18, 2015

The New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks each overcame the absence of a prominent player to win their latest game.

While Marian Hossa will remain out for Chicago, the Rangers might get captain Ryan McDonagh back Wednesday night when two of the NHL's powerhouses cap their season series.

McDonagh missed his fourth straight game because of a concussion - suffered in a shootout win over Philadelphia on Feb. 6 - when New York had a chippy rematch with the Flyers on Sunday. Derek Stepan scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory, which moved the Rangers to 5-0-1 in their last six games.

McDonagh might return for this game after being cleared for full contact before Tuesday's practice.

"Everything that I've seen so far, he looks fine. So we'll see how he responds," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Today was his first contact day. If he's all right (at the optional skate Wednesday), there's a good chance I'll put him in the lineup."

New York (32-18-6) is 8-0-2 in its last 10 home games and now seeks to earn a point in 11 straight for the first time since Feb. 16-April 4, 2008.

The Rangers lost 1-0 the last time Chicago came to Madison Square Garden on March 18, but that's their only defeat in the past five meetings. New York spoiled the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup banner raising with a 3-2 victory Oct. 7 to open the season after nearly facing them for the championship, having lost to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Both teams are back in position to make a run at the Cup finals, currently standing as the No. 3 seeds in their respective conferences.

Chicago (37-18-5) won't have Hossa for this matchup or at least the next two weeks because of an injured left leg. The Blackhawks had no trouble Tuesday in their first game without the veteran forward and one of their top two-way players, routing lowly Toronto 7-2 to end a three-game losing streak.

The team had only four goals during that skid before Tuesday's outburst which included four on the power play, one more than it generated in the previous 11 games. League scoring leader Patrick Kane tied a career high with four points, including three assists.

"We've been, I don't want to say struggling offensively, but we've been waiting for a game like this," said Kane, one shy of being the first Blackhawks player with 35 goals since Patrick Sharp in 2007-08. "Every game is different, but at the same time, we had a few guys score tonight. Maybe it gives them some confidence, maybe it gives the whole team confidence offensively."

Though the Rangers play the following night in Toronto, top netminder Henrik Lundqvist will be in net Wednesday. He has a 1.18 goals-against average during a personal five-game win streak and is 6-1-2 with a 1.98 GAA in nine games against Chicago.

"I think our total focus has to be on (Chicago)," Vigneault said. "It's going to take our best game as a group (Wednesday) night and I want our guys to be focused on that game alone."

The Rangers might need McDonagh to bolster what could be a short-handed defense.

Dan Boyle's status is unclear after he missed Tuesday's practice because of the flu. Marc Staal might be out as well because he and his wife are expecting a child.

Chicago's Artermi Panarin scored against New York in his NHL debut and is the league's top rookie scorer with 19 goals and 35 assists, including eight points in five games this month.

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