DALLAS - For a long time after the start of the NHL season, as New York's NFL and NBA franchises foundered, the Islanders were the hottest team in the metropolitan area.
That's not the case any longer. After a middling start, the Rangers have laid claim to the title, reeling off eight straight wins, their longest streak since the 1974-75 season. The Blueshirts hope to make it nine Monday night against the Stars.
The Rangers' eight straight wins ties them with the Blackhawks for the longest winning streak this season. They won 10 in a row twice in franchise history, in 1973 and 1940.
The Rangers began their current streak with a three-game sweep in Western Canada in early December with wins over Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, followed by another road win against Carolina.
A victory over the Stars, who are 15-14-5 overall and 6-7-5 at home, would give the Rangers another shot of confidence and their 20th win of the season.
Now as healthy as they have been all season, the Rangers are 15-3-2 when scoring first, and Dan Girardi said both are factors in the streak.
"When we have the lead, we're going to play the right way and not sit back, keep on our toes and keep hunting on the forecheck and not changing our game," said Girardi, one of only six Rangers who have played in all 33 games.
Having captain Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle -- two of the top four defensemen -- back from injuries is allowing coach Alain Vigneault to spread ice time more equally. The Rangers are 10-1-0 with both McDonagh and Boyle in the lineup.
"We've had line combinations the same for a while, and d-pairings," McDonagh said. "I think everyone can feel where each other is on the ice when there's a situation to make an offensive play or when it's time to play high-percentage hockey. We are making consistent good decisions with the puck."
Dallas, on the other hand, has struggled keeping pucks out of the net, surrendering 115 goals, the third highest in the NHL. The Rangers have allowed 80 for an average of 2.42 per game. The Stars are at 3.38.
Their big gun, center Tyler Seguin, leads the NHL in goals with 25 and is second in points with 43. Captain and left wing Jamie Benn is 10-20-30.
"The games I have seen them play, they've been playing better lately," Vigneault said. "They're very offensive-minded, and a little bit like Calgary, the Ds get involved."
Notes & quotes: J.T. Miller, a healthy scratch on Saturday, rotated in on the fourth line during Sunday's practice. Vigneault said he would watch video on the flight and make a decision about Monday night's lineup.