After struggling over the past two weeks, the New York Rangers again feel like they're heading in the right direction.
Keeping it up this week during a three-game trip to Western Canada won't be easy, though.
With leading scorer Marian Gaborik back in the lineup, the Rangers seek their first victory in Vancouver in a dozen years Tuesday night against the banged-up Canucks.
New York (9-5-1) got off to a strong start to 2009-10 by winning seven games in a row following a season-opening loss, but things quickly turned. The Rangers were just 1-4-1 on the heels of the winning streak before defeating Boston 1-0 on Sunday.
Gaborik scored the lone goal after sitting out Friday's 3-2 loss at Minnesota and Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to the New York Islanders with a right leg injury. Gaborik, clearly the key cog in the Rangers' attack, has scored five goals in his last four games, raising his season total to 11. The right wing, who signed with New York in the offseason, has three goals and two assists in his last five games against the Canucks (8-7-0).
"I don't think the players are resting on it ... but that's why Gabby is here," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "That is why we made the deal. We felt we needed a game-breaker and I think that helps you win games consistently."
While Gaborik's leading the offense, Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves Sunday for his first shutout of the season.
"We needed some confidence to feel good about ourselves and as a team," said Lundqvist, who was 1-3-1 with a 3.38 goals-against average in his previous six games. "This week is going to be a challenge for us. We know it's going to be tough, but this will definitely help us."
The Rangers, who visit Edmonton on Thursday and Calgary on Saturday, have lost three consecutive road games, and stopping that skid in Vancouver could be a challenge.
New York has lost four straight at GM Place since a 6-3 victory on Oct. 11, 1997, and the Canucks have won 19 of 23 in Vancouver dating to last season.
In the only meeting between these teams last season, Lundqvist stopped 12 of 17 shots before being removed in the second period of a 6-3 loss Nov. 19 at Madison Square Garden.
Lundqvist has as 5.65 GAA in losing his two career starts against the Canucks, who have won three straight over the Rangers and eight of the last nine meetings overall.
While New York doesn't seem to have much in its favor going into this matchup, it likely won't have to face four-time All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo, one of seven Vancouver players expected to be out.
Luongo has missed three straight games with a hairline rib fracture and likely won't return until Thursday at Minnesota.
Andrew Raycroft did a solid job as Luongo's replacement Sunday, stopping 18 shots in a 3-0 win over Western Conference-leading Colorado for his second victory in three starts.
"That was a big win for us," said Raycroft, who was pulled after giving up four goals on 22 shots through 40 minutes of Friday's 7-2 loss in Anaheim. "We didn't play our best the other night. We played well against the best team in the league and we shut them down, so it was good."
Raycroft hasn't had much luck against the Rangers lately, though, going 0-2-0 with a 7.07 GAA in his last three games against them.