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PREVIEW: Wild Wild West Road Trip Begins in Colorado

The New York Rangers earned two historic wins against the Colorado Avalanche last season. To pick up some pre-All-Star break momentum, they may have to earn another.

A four-game Western Conference swing that will take the Rangers into Tampa’s All-Star festivities begins this afternoon at Pepsi Center, as they take on the Colorado Avalanche (3:00, MSG). It will be the first game without Kevin Shattenkirk, who is out indefinitely with a torn miniscus.

The Rangers (24-17-5) enter this road trip with a semblance of momentum, having earned wins in their past two games. Thursday’s win was a 4-3 thriller over the Buffalo Sabres, following up a 5-1 win on Tuesday over Philadelphia. Rich Nash has been vital to the previous two wins, accumulating five points in the past couple, including four games. The lone assist came on the game winning goal, when Pavel Buchnevich broke a 3-3 tie for the win, has situated the Rangers at the top of the Eastern wild card picture, and they can move up to the last guaranteed Metropolitan playoff spot with a win this afternoon.

It’ll be a tall task, as the Avalanche (25-16-3) have reintroduced themselves to the national hockey scene with an eight-game winning streak. The most recent victory was a 5-3 showing over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals, helping build an early 4-0 lead. Jonathan Bernier made 45 saves in the effort, including 19 in the third period that stifled a San Jose comeback effort.

While Colorado has taken the only meeting thus far of the season, a 4-2 win during the opening night festivities on October 5, the Rangers swept the yearly pair from the Avs last season. Both wins turned out to be historic for Henrik Lundqvist, who became the all-time winningest European-born goaltender in the first showdown on December 31, and later earned his 400th win in February rematch at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers’ upcoming trip will take them to California tomorrow, as they play Los Angeles before wrapping with with visits to Anaheim and San Jose.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490

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