NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle and Arizona Coyotes rookie forward Anthony Duclair have been looking forward to the Coyotes game against the Rangers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-A, MSG) at Madison Square Garden since the NHL released the 2015-16 schedule in June.
It's the first time they'll get to face their former teams since they were the big pieces crossing the country as part of a trade between the Coyotes and Rangers on March 1.
"It's obviously going to be a little different," Yandle said. "It's one of those games that when you see it on the schedule I was happy it was in the beginning of the year, get it over with and get going on from there. But I think it will be a lot of fun."
New York acquired Yandle, defenseman Chris Summers and a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Arizona for Duclair, defenseman John Moore, a first-round pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2015.
Yandle had been with the Coyotes since they selected him in the fourth round (No. 105) of the 2005 draft. He played 558 games for the Coyotes and was their leading scorer in 2012-13 with 30 points in 48 games, and in 2013-14 with 53 points in 82 games. He finished second in scoring for the Coyotes last season with 41 points despite playing 63 games for them.
Yandle has four points in seven games with the Rangers this season.
"He was here a long time and he was an assistant captain, a big part of our room," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "That was the one last year, we were having a tough year, but when you trade a key member of your team like that it's a real shot over the bow. But everybody has moved on."
Duclair, the Rangers' third round pick (No. 80) in 2013, had seven points in 18 games with the Rangers last season before being returned to his junior team, Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. During his short time with the Rangers he became close friends with current Rangers forwards Kevin Hayes and Derick Brassard.
"I was just shocked more than anything," Duclair said of getting traded. "For a young guy to get traded, you don't really expect that. But at the same time it comes with the business of hockey. I'm happy where I am. I love it in Arizona and hopefully I stay here for a while."
He's now a huge part of the Coyotes' resurgence. Duclair leads the Coyotes with five goals and is tied with fellow rookie Max Domi for second on the team with seven points.
"Yandle was a big part of our team and the prospect we got back was an unknown," Tippett said. "This year he [Duclair] has come in and made himself known very well; had a great start.
"When you get traded there's lots to prove to the other team and it's extra motivation for them."
The Rangers have motivation to build on a strong performance Monday in a 4-0 win against the San Jose Sharks. That stopped a three-game losing streak (0-2-1).
The Coyotes are trying to stop their three-game losing streak (0-2-1) after a 3-0-0 start.
"We had a surprising start but we can't stop there. We've got to keep going," Duclair said. "We think we're a good team. We know we can beat some good teams. That's what we've got to prove."
Here are the projected lineups:
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Max Domi - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair
Tobias Rieder - Brad Richardson - Steve Downie
Jordan Martinook - Boyd Gordon - Kyle Chipchura
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone
Klas Dahlbeck - Zbynek Michalek
Nicklas Grossmann - Connor Murphy
Injured: Joe Vitale (fractured orbital bone)
Scratched: John Scott, Stefan Elliott
Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast
Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller
Viktor Stalberg - Dominic Moore - Jarret Stoll
Ryan McDonagh - Kevin Klein
Keith Yandle - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
Status report: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Stepan is a game-time decision, but likely will play. Stepan missed practice Wednesday because he had a wisdom tooth extracted and two screws were removed after being implanted when he broke his jaw during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "I would say it's game-time decision. But from what I saw this morning there he should be fine," Vigneault said. … Forward Matthias Plachta was returned to Springfield of the American Hockey League. He had been recalled Monday.
Who's hot: Fast and Staal each had a goal and an assist in the win against the Sharks on Monday. … Hanzal leads the Coyotes with eight points, all assists, through seven games. … Duclair's five goals have come in the past four games.