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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak and defensemen Jake Gardiner will return to the lineup against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG).

Bozak missed the past four games with a lower-body injury and Gardiner missed three games with an upper-body injury. Bozak will replace Brad Boyes in the lineup, and Gardiner will replace Scott Harrington, who is dealing with an upper-body injury.

"Having them back in the lineup make you feel better," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "Bozak's an important guy for us and he gives us a much better one-two punch up front, which is important. Gardiner just skates and moves the puck really well, so I think any type of boost like that is a positive thing for our group."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will reunite forwards Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello on his top line for the first time in six games. After beginning the season together, Vigneault decided to switch his top two centers, Derek Stepan and Brassard, on Oct. 18. The move had Stepan between Nash and Zuccarello and Brassard with Chris Kreider.

Despite going 3-0-2 after the switch, Vigneault still wasn't pleased, primarily from a defensive standpoint. He'll revert back to the original setup against the Maple Leafs.

"With the way Kreider skates, I think he needs a right-handed center and I think he's had really good chemistry with Stepan over the years," Brassard said. "Me and [Nash] and [Zuccarello] have been playing together for over a year now so I think the chemistry is there. We'll have to find a way to make it work."

Left wing Rich Clune, who signed an NHL contract on Thursday, will make his Maple Leafs debut. The 28-year-old had two goals, five points and 18 penalty minutes in eight games with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League. Clune has played in 120 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators.

"Clune had a great training camp and is a physical forechecker, an energy guy, good pro and does things right," Babcock said. "[Byron Froese] and Clune are two guys that can help us have an energy fourth line, and Froese and [Michael] Grabner will penalty kill, so it gives us good useable pieces.

"Anytime it's not going the way you want, you're looking at how you can improve your team and make your team better."

Maple Leafs defenseman Matt Hunwick, who signed a two-year contract with Toronto on July 1 after spending last season with the Rangers, looks forward to his return to Madison Square Garden.

"Even before I became a Ranger, I always enjoyed my time playing in New York," Hunwick said. "I haven't really thought about it a whole lot since I'm low key when it comes to that, but I'm sure once I get on the ice I'll realize it's not quite the same. It's always fun playing against old teammates."

Hunwick had 11 points and was a plus-17 in 55 games with the Rangers in 2014-15. He has no points and in eight games with the Maple Leafs.

Each team is coming off a long layoff. The Maple Leafs, who are 0-3-1 over the past four games, last played Monday, a 4-3 loss against the Arizona Coyotes at Air Canada Centre. The Rangers, 3-0-1 over the past four games, are playing for the first time in five days following a 4-1 victory against the Calgary Flames on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Daniel WinnikTyler Bozak - Joffrey Lupul

Shawn MatthiasPeter Holland - PA Parenteau

Michael Grabner - Byron Froese - Rich Clune

Matt Hunwick - Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner - Morgan Rielly

Roman Polak - Martin Marincin

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Nick Spaling (lower body), Scott Harrington (upper body)

Scratched: Brad Boyes


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Emerson Etem - Dominic Moore - Jarret Stoll

Ryan McDonagh - Kevin Klein

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Dan Girardi

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: Viktor Stalberg (head)

Scratched: Dylan McIlrath

Status report: McIlrath will serve as a healthy scratch for the 10th time in 11 games. … Stalberg has been cleared by doctors to resume skating and returned to practice Thursday. He is listed as day-to-day. "I'm going to give him one more day," Vigneault said Thursday. "I'm sure if I need him Tuesday (against the Washington Capitals) he'll be ready." … Etem remains in the lineup, replacing Stalberg on the fourth line with Moore and Stoll. … The Maple Leafs placed center Mark Arcobello on waivers Thursday. … Spaling will miss his second straight game. He remains day-to-day.

Who's hot: Komarov and van Riemsdyk each lead Toronto with four goals apiece. … Lindberg, a rookie, leads the Rangers with five goals and seven points.

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