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Penguins just six back as Rangers brace for Senators

Greetings from Ottawa. Fine evening/dinner at the Atomic Rooster (anybody remember "Death Walks Behind You" from the grand old past?) on Bank Street. Caught some of the Pens rally to rake the Leafs.

Heading out to Kanata for the morning skate, so stay tuned.

The Rangers are 5-5 in the last 10 games, and although they remain in first place in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division, both the players and coach John Tortorella have to be peeking back at the pack.

“What’s Pittsburgh, seven behind us?” asked Steve Eminger after practice yesterday. In fact, the Penguins, who finally may have perennial All-Star Sidney Crosby (concussion) back by next week, are surging. It's six now, Emmy, and the Rangers have a game in hand.

A tailspin is something the Rangers want to avoid, starting tonight against the Senators, who are in seventh place (34-25-8, 76 points) in the East and a possible first-round opponent in the playoffs. Ottawa has defeated the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist twice in three games, outscoring them 10-7. In their last meeting, on Jan. 12 at the Garden, the Senators blanked the Rangers 3-0, one of six times they have failed to score. The Rangers defeated the Senators, 5-4, in ScotiaBank Place on Oct. 29, in the ninth game of the season.

“We know how to play with edge,’’ Tortorella said in a terse briefing. “It’s the only way we can win.”

Captain Ryan Callahan is back in the lineup, but Brandon Dubinsky may not be available after missing the final 57 minutes of Tuesday’s turnover-filled 4-1 loss to the Devils after a bout with Ryan Carter. Dubinsky traveled here, but did not skate and is day-to-day. “He got hit in the nose pretty hard. Having some problem with his sinus,” Tortorella said. Initially, the team said he had a hand injury.

If Dubinsky isn’t available, center John Mitchell, a healthy scratch (“He’s struggling,” Tortorella said) against the Devils, likely will be back in the lineup. He skated between Mike Rupp and John Scott at practice. The Rangers are carrying 13 forwards and eight defensemen, although Stu Bickel, far better on the blueline, has been used upfront. D Anton Stralman, also scratched Tuesday---for the first time in 40 games--could return.

“We’ve got to bring it up a notch,” said Brandon Prust. “Everybody else is battling for playoff position. We’ve got to make sure we’re not comfortable. The last couple of weeks, we’ve relied on Hank a lot and found ways to win, which is a good sign, but we haven’t been as good as we need to be."

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