NEW YORK -- Slow starts have been an issue this season for Calgary. The challenge for the Flames may be exacerbated Sunday at Madison Square Garden when they visit the New York Rangers in the opening game of a two-game Eastern Conference road trip.
Both teams lost their most recent games. The Rangers fell to the host Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday. The Flames dropped a 5-3 decision to the visiting Nashville Predators on Friday.
Now the Flames (4-3-0) will look to get off to a faster start after traveling cross-country. Calgary, which will play the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, has been outscored 9-7 in the first period this season. On Friday, the Predators scored 51 seconds into the first period and never trailed.
"We talked about our starts after the Boston game," left winger Matthew Tkachuk told the Flames' website Friday, in reference to a 5-2 win over the Bruins on Wednesday in which Calgary led 3-0 after the first.
"And today, first minute, what happens? They score. We kept battling back, but you can't continue to play uphill."
This season is likely to be an uphill battle for the Rangers (2-4-1), who embarked upon a rebuilding project at the trade deadline in February. But New York has shown promise under rookie coach David Quinn, who has presided over four losses by two goals or fewer.
The loss to the Capitals on Wednesday capped a productive two-day stretch against contenders for the Rangers, who beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Tuesday night.
"That's big, coming away with a point -- three out of four," left winger Chris Kreider told reporters afterward. "Obviously, we'd like to have four out of four, but three out of four's pretty good, considering the travel and the strength of the opponents that we played. So it's something we can hang out hat on. But I think we can get to the point where we're getting all four points."
Two 36-year-old No. 1 netminders are likely to oppose each other Sunday night.
With three days off, the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist is scheduled to start for the seventh time in eight games. Lundqvist took the loss Wednesday when he had 34 saves against the Capitals.
Mike Smith, who has started the previous two games for the Flames and six of seven this season, should occupy the net Sunday. Smith absorbed the loss Friday, when he stopped 26 of 30 shots against the Predators.
Lundqvist is 8-3-0 in 11 career games against the Flames. Smith is 5-12-2 in 20 career appearances against the Rangers.
For the Rangers, defenseman Freddie Claesson is likely to miss Sunday's game after suffering an upper-body injury during practice Saturday.
Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic, who suffered a facial fracture while fighting with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the season opener Oct. 3, is skating with teammates but will miss his seventh straight game.