RANGERS (0-0-0) at COYOTES (0-0-0)
TV: MSG, FS-A
Season series: Drama unfolded the last time the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes opposed one another on Jan. 10, 2012 at Madison Square Garden, when Derek Stepan ended a thriller in the sixth round of a shootout to give New York a 2-1 victory. Marian Gaborik had a chance to win it for the Rangers in overtime on a penalty shot, but was denied when Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made a sprawling save.
Big story: The Alain Vigneault era begins for New York as the erstwhile Vancouver Canucks coach makes his regular-season debut for a Rangers team expected to compete for the Stanley Cup. Vigneault, who guided the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010-11, takes over for John Tortorella -- Vigneault's replacement in Vancouver. He is charged with, among other things, fixing a power play that ranked 23rd in both 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Rangers: Stepan returned to the Rangers in just the nick of time after agreeing to a two-year contract that will have him back on the ice in time for the opener. A critical component to the Rangers' success, Stepan will center a top line with Rick Nash and Brad Richards.
A center for the majority of his career, Richards has practiced at left wing since Stepan returned last Thursday.
"We've still got two guys out, and you've got three centers (Richards, Stepan and Derick Brassard) that want to play in offensive situations," Richards said. "I'm playing with Rick and Step, so hopefully we can get something going. If it works, that means we're staying, and if we're staying, that means it's working."
Coyotes: Like the Rangers, the Coyotes have struggled with the man advantage, finishing 25th in the League last season and 29th in 2011-12. However, the unit showed encouraging signs in the preseason with a 9-for-29 clip and at least one power-play goal in all but one of the Yotes' seven games.
"The guys are doing a good job thinking about a shot-first mentality," first-year assistant coach Newell Brown told The Arizona Republic. "I think we've seen some good things in the games so far. There's also a lot we can work on to get better in our breakouts and faceoff recoveries and puck movement -- those types of things. Guys are getting used to the system, but overall it's been really good."
Injury report: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan (shoulder surgery) is out for the opener but could be back Oct. 7 in Los Angeles. Forward Carl Hagelin (shoulder surgery) is on long-term injured reserve and will miss the first 10 games … Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette will miss the first of three games with a suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in a preseason game. Defenseman Rostislav Klesla (concussion) remains out indefinitely after taking a hit from Kings forward Jordan Nolan in the preseason.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL
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