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Rangers must regroup quickly with Penguins, Lightning coming to town

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins carries the

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins carries the puck through neutral ice in the second period against the New York Rangers in Game Seven of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2014 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Credit: Getty Images

How do you recover from a lost weekend?

After dropping both games -- 5-4 in Toronto on Saturday and 3-1 to Edmonton on Sunday -- the Rangers can't nurse the hangover too long. They need a rapid regroup. Three of the next four games are against the Penguins and Lightning, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

The trek starts Tuesday night at home against the Penguins, who are riding a seven-game winning streak, and Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer.

Crosby, who has 24 points in 13 games, and his teammates are scoring a league-leading 4.15 goals per game. (The Rangers are 13th at 2.71.) The Penguins (10-2-1) have not lost in regulation on the road (5-0-1) and the Rangers are 4-3-2 at home.

The Blueshirts (6-6-2), who believe they need to play with more emotion and structure, have to balance that by staying out of the penalty box.

Pittsburgh has the NHL's top power play with 21 goals, producing at a 37.5-percent clip. No other club is close. The Rangers have five extra-strength goals in 14 games and have surrendered three shorthanders.

Stick checks didn't slow the Oilers and won't slow the Penguins, whom the Rangers will face again at Consol Energy Center on Saturday. Tampa Bay (11-3-1) visits Monday, with former Rangers Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle returning to the Garden.

For those who look to last season for omens, the Rangers started 6-8 before beating the Penguins, 5-1, at the Garden and winning three of the next four.

But what this past weekend showed is that the Rangers can plug only so many holes for so long. They have skated without veteran Dan Boyle -- projected to be the power-play quarterback and a second-pair defenseman -- since he broke his right hand on opening night. They are 1-2-1 without captain Ryan McDonagh, who suffered a separated left shoulder when driven into the boards by the Jets' Evander Kane on Nov. 1.

McDonagh, a first-line defenseman, might not be back until December. Boyle could play later this week.

Having served his five-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Minnesota's Erik Haula, defenseman John Moore is eligible to return Tuesday against Pittsburgh. Conor Allen was assigned to Hartford, as was left wing Ryan Malone. Allen did not score a point while averaging 12:12 of ice time in four games.

Malone, 34, who signed a one-year, two-way contract Sept. 11, has been a healthy scratch for five of the last seven games and will report to the Pack. He cleared waivers last week.

The Rangers also recalled winger Jesper Fast, who had one goal and eight assists in 11 AHL games.

Moore isn't a savior, although he will be fresh and could be on the second defensive pairing and second power-play unit. He is averaging 14:19, with an assist, an even rating, 15 shots, 16 hits and four blocks.

New York Sports