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The New York Rangers look to continue their ascent in the Eastern Conference when they host the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday. Henrik Lundqvist registered his franchise-best 50th shutout on Saturday as the Rangers recorded their third consecutive victory with a 2-0 triumph over New Jersey. Third-place New York remained one point behind surging Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division, with the Flyers visiting Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
Phoenix also has been streaking and was poised to snap Boston's 11-game winning streak before the latter netted three goals in the third period en route to a 4-2 victory on Saturday. The setback was just the third in 10 games for the Coyotes, who are clinging to the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Captain Shane Doan scored his 20th goal and has recorded four points in his last five contests for Phoenix, which continues its three-game road trip against Pittsburgh on Tuesday and wraps it up in New Jersey two days later.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Plus Arizona (Phoenix), MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE COYOTES (34-26-11): Mike Smith has been a workhorse for the Coyotes, starting 11 straight contests while posting an impressive 1.86 goals-against average. "He's in a rhythm right now that he feels real comfortable playing," coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "We'll try to manage his practice time, but he feels good with his game right now and wants to play." The Canadian Olympian recorded 23 saves and Radim Vrbata netted a hat trick in Phoenix's 4-1 victory over New York on Oct. 3 in the season opener for both teams.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (39-29-4): New York's postseason push has benefited from the increased production of Derek Stepan, who has recorded 15 points in his last 13 contests. The 23-year-old scored into an empty net with a backhander from center ice on Saturday for the Rangers' first power-play goal in 18 opportunities over the last five games. Stepan had an assist on New York's lone goal in the previous meeting with Phoenix and has notched three points in four contests against the Coyotes.
1. Phoenix D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who scored against the Bruins, has collected two goals and three assists in his last six contests.
2. The team leader in goals with 23, New York LW Rick Nash has tallied three times in the last three games.
3. Phoenix has scored at least one power-play goal in four straight contests and seven of the last nine.
PREDICTION: Rangers 3, Coyotes 2