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At the Rink: Islanders at Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers left wing Ryan Malone will make his season debut against the rival New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

In an effort to energize a lineup that has been outscored 11-5 in two straight losses, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault confirmed the decision after the morning skate Tuesday.

"He hasn't played a game yet so he'll be in the lineup and we'll use him on the power play and see what happens," Vigneault said.

Malone, 34, was signed by the Rangers as a free agent Sept. 11. He has 19 goals and 28 points in 44 career games against the Islanders.

"I'll just keep it simple and make good reads, throw the body around a little bit and do whatever it takes to win," Malone said. "Every time I go over the boards I want to create some chances, help the team in a positive way."

Vigneault said he expects Mats Zuccarello to return to the lineup after the forward sat out the 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday with a shoulder injury. Zuccarello was working on the third line with left wing Carl Hagelin and center Kevin Hayes at the morning skate.

"I'm trying to put the pieces together where we can have the most success," Vigneault said. "One of the reasons is our [center position] right now. We have a couple of guys who aren't playing up to what I believe they could play, and with putting Marty [St. Louis] and young [Kevin] Hayes [at center] makes for a [center position] that probably gives us some concerns."

Rangers top-line center Derek Stepan, who on Oct. 6 was placed on long-term injured reserve, is not eligible to return until Nov. 3 when the Rangers host the St. Louis Blues. Stepan is recovering from a fractured fibula.

Rick Nash will assume top-line duty against the Islanders after leaving the game Sunday against the Maple Leafs at the second intermission to be with his wife, Jessica. His son, McLaren Nash, was born later that evening.

"It was great, the best feeling in the world and you can't compare it to anything else unless you've had a child as well," Nash said. "I was home [Monday] night and got some sleep. My wife is fine and everything is good."

The Islanders, who held practice at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday morning, are looking to start the season 3-0-0 for the fourth time in club history. The Islanders won their first four games in 1976-77 and 2001-02 and their first three games in 1987-88.

Here are the projected lineups:


Cory Conacher - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Mikhail Grabovski - Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Nikolay Kulemin

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Thomas Hickey - Travis Hamonic

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Brian Strait - Griffin Reinhart

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton

Injured: Michael Grabner (lower body), Lubomir Visnovsky (back) Matt Carkner (back), Calvin de Haan (upper body)


Anthony Duclair - Martin St. Louis - Rick Nash

Chris Kreider - Derick Brassard - Lee Stempniak

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello

Ryan Malone - Dominic Moore - Tanner Glass

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Michael Kostka

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Matt Hunwick, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast

Injured: Dan Boyle (broken hand), Derek Stepan (fractured fibula)

Status report: The Islanders have won three of their past four games at Madison Square Garden, including two of three last season. … Vigneault said Malone would see time on the top power-play unit for the Rangers. During the morning skate Malone was working with St. Louis, Duclair, Nash and McDonagh on the man-advantage. … Lundqvist, who was pulled late in the second period after allowing six goals on 24 shots against the Maple Leafs on Sunday, will get the start against Halak. In 47 career games against the Islanders, Lundqvist is 29-12-5 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Halak is 7-4-0 with a 2.72 GAA and .911 save percentage in 12 career games against the Rangers.

Who's hot: Nelson has three goals and six points in two games. … Nash has four goals, five points and a plus-3 rating in three games.

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