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At the Rink: Blues at Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will try to defeat the St. Louis Blues on Monday without four of their top-six defensemen, potentially one of their top-six forwards, and with their backup goalie in net.

Rangers goalie Cam Talbot will make his second start this season, but the defense in front of him will be quite different from when he played Oct. 11 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Defensemen Ryan McDonagh (shoulder separation) and Kevin Klein (foot contusion) have joined Dan Boyle (broken hand) and John Moore (suspension) on the sidelines since sustaining their injuries in a 1-0 shootout loss Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Matt Hunwick and Michael Kostka, seventh and eighth on the Rangers defensive depth chart entering the season, are expected to make up New York's second defense pair Monday.

Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath were recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Sunday to fill in for McDonagh and Klein.

In addition, forward Mats Zuccarello did not participate in the morning skate because of an undisclosed injury. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he's a game-time decision. Ryan Malone, who cleared waivers Monday, will be in the lineup if Zuccarello is unable to play.

"This game is about finding ways to win and that's what we've gotta do," Vigneault said. "We're playing against in my book one of the elite teams in the NHL, and we've gotta find ways with our team and that's what we're going to do. We had a good session this morning on some of the things we need to do on the ice against St. Louis. We'll have another meeting tonight and we'll be ready for the game."

McDonagh is expected to miss three to four weeks. There is no timetable yet on Klein because he can't be fully evaluated until the swelling subsides.

Boyle is skating but in a yellow non-contact jersey and might still be a week or two away from returning. Moore has four games remaining on his five-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Minnesota Wild center Erik Haula on Oct. 27.

"Stability is good, but in this game, with the nature of the game, and things that happen on a daily basis sometimes you don't get a lot of it," Vigneault said. "Right now we've got a few moving parts and we'll sort it out."

McIlrath and Allen, who each had short stints with the Rangers last season, said they spoke to former New York defenseman and current Hartford assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom prior to leaving Sunday. The message from Beukeboom was simple and straightforward.

"He just said, 'Play your game, you're in good hands,'" Allen said. "He's in the back of my head all the time. He's been really good to us."

Vigneault said he's gotten good scouting reports on McIlrath and Allen from the coaches in Hartford.

"In Dylan's case he's been very dependable defensively, been playing a physical brand of hockey, and they've used him quite a bit killing penalties and have been very pleased with his progression so far this year," Vigneault said of McIlrath, the Rangers first-round draft pick in 2010. "In Conor's case, he's what we saw last year. He's a good puck-moving defenseman, has a knack to jump up in the attack when the opportunity is there, just has to pick the right spots. That's part of the process for any young player. He's learning the game and he'll get better as we move forward."

Despite knowing all about the changes the Rangers have made on defense, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he's more concerned about getting through New York's forwards. He said the Rangers forwards presented a big problem for the Blues in the season opener Oct. 9, a 5-2 Rangers win.

"I don't think we were ready for the level their forwards played at in Game 1," Hitchcock said. "It took us half the game to get up to speed with matching their tenacity so it's more their forwards that we're concerned about. To even get into the defenseman you've gotta get past the forwards and past their tenacity. I said to the players this morning this is the group that for us has competed the hardest on the puck from a forward standpoint this year. We've gotta be ready for that more than anything."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jaden Schwartz - David Backes - Joakim Lindstrom

Alexander Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Steve Ott - Patrik Berglund - Magnus Paajarvi

Chris Porter - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Dmitrij Jaskin

Injured: T.J. Oshie (concussion), Paul Stastny (shoulder)


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Anthony Duclair

Chris Kreider - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Ryan Malone - Chris Mueller - Tanner Glass

Marc Staal - Dan Girardi

Matt Hunwick - Michael Kostka

Conor Allen - Dylan McIlrath

Cam Talbot

Henrik Lundqvist

Scratched: None

Injured: Dan Boyle (hand), Ryan McDonagh (shoulder), Kevin Klein (foot), Mats Zuccarello (undisclosed)

Suspended: John Moore

Status report: Elliott will be the Blues starting goaltender. He made 27 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Hitchcock said Allen will start Tuesday at Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils. … Stepan has been cleared for contact and participated in the morning skate, but he will not play. He could make his season debut Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings. … Stastny competed in contact drills Monday for the first time since injuring his shoulder on Oct. 18 against the Arizona Coyotes. Depending on how he recovers, Hitchcock said Stastny could return Thursday when the Blues play the Devils at Scottrade Center.

Who's hot: Tarasenko has five goals and one assist in his past three games. He had a hat trick and an assist in a 4-3 overtime win against the Dallas Stars last Tuesday, and two goals in a 3-2 shootout win against the Avalanche on Saturday.


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