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Rangers' defensemen joining the attack during win streak

Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers

Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers celebrates his goal at 4:10 of the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

All aboard on the blue line -- well, almost all.

Except for veteran Dan Boyle, signed as a free agent in July specifically to produce offense, and bottom-pair subs Matt Hunwick and John Moore, the defensemen have contributed significantly to the Rangers' six-game winning streak, their longest since November 2011.

Led by captain Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein, four of the six regulars have totaled six goals and three assists as the Rangers (17-10-4) have found ways to grab a dozen points and climb into the Metropolitan Division hunt. They are two points behind the third-place Capitals (17-10-6), who have played two more games than the Rangers and visit the Garden Tuesday night.

During the string of victories, McDonagh, who scored the lone goal in Sunday night's 1-0 win over the Hurricanes, has two goals and two assists and Klein netted two of his seven goals. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi also found the net during the stretch.

Better reads and backchecking, Staal said, have made a noticeable difference.

"For d-men, it's knowing when to go down the wall and when not to," he said. "Our reads have been better. When we're at our best, our gaps are tight and forwards are pouring back to the middle of the ice. You can't get anything against us and we can turn around and go the other way."

Girardi said quicker movement out of their zone and pressure down ice allow the defensemen to join the offense.

"When we're spending less time in our zone, we are going to have legs to get up in the play," he said, "instead of 10 games ago, when we were defending the whole game. Guys were dead out there just trying to get the puck out so we can change. It's a lot easier for us when we're cycling in the offensive zone, getting the puck up top, throwing it back down."

Only Boyle, who seems a step behind and is pointless in the streak, and Hunwick and Moore, who have played three games each, have no points.

Boyle, who signed a two-year, $9-million deal and had 144 goals and 417 assists in his career with Tampa Bay and San Jose, has only two goals in 15 games this season.

"Dan's biggest attribute in the past has been his offensive instincts," coach Alain Vigneault said, "him jumping up in the play, beating the forecheck, being the quarterback on the power play. I'm very confident that he's capable of doing all those things. Unfortunately, he's had two tough situations with the [broken] hand and the health [a flu-like illness], and it's taken a little bit of time for him to find his game."

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