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Rangers improve league-best road record to 26-9-0

Aleksander Barkov, #16, of the Florida Panthers scores

Aleksander Barkov, #16, of the Florida Panthers scores a shootout goal against Antti Raanta, #32, of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Mar. 17, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Rangers are about to find out if two positive trends can hold up as they head into the season’s final three weeks.

They improved their league-best road record to 26-9-0 on Saturday night with a 3-2 win in Minnesota. They’re also 20-5-2 against the Western Conference. And four of their next six games are on the road against Western Conference teams.

After games at Minnesota and New Jersey, the Rangers take on the Islanders at the Garden. Then they head west for a three-game California swing starting on March 25 against the Kings in Los Angeles.

That will also be the front end of the Rangers’ fourth straight set of back-to-back games. They were 9-3 in the second half of back-to-backs going into Saturday night.

The Rangers play seven of their final 11 regular-season games away from the Garden.

Raanta rising

Antti Raanta started his fifth straight game in goal on Saturday in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist. He topped his career best with his 23rd start of the season against the Wild. He was tested early when he stuffed former teammate Eric Staal at the goalmouth eight minutes into the game. Three minutes later he stonewalled Minnesota sniper Jason Zucker’s wrist shot from the left circle.

Staal eventually got revenge when he beat Raanta with a wrist shot from the slot as a Wild power play was expiring.

Blue notes

Staal played in his 999th career game on Saturday. He’s set to become the 311th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 games on Sunday when the Wild visit the Jets. Staal appeared in 20 games for the Rangers last season after coming over in a trade with Carolina . . . Mats Zuccarello posted his team-leading 37th assist of the season when he set up Brady Skjei’s goal late in the first period . . . The Rangers announced on Twitter that Lundqvist skated for 40 minutes in New York, facing shots, along with defenseman Kevin Klein. Dan Girardi (ankle) worked out off the ice.

New York Sports