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At the Rink: Panthers at Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- Brothers Jimmy Hayes and Kevin Hayes will play against each other for the second time this season when the Florida Panthers visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

Kevin Hayes, who followed Jimmy at Boston College, got the best of his brother when the Rangers won 5-2 at the Panthers on Dec. 31. Jimmy, however, scored a goal for the Panthers and was named the game's second star.

"If we get the win that's all that matters," Kevin Hayes said. "But he [Jimmy] is having a good year and doing well but hopefully he doesn't score [Monday]. It's exciting knowing that your older brother, who you spent your whole life with, is on the other team. Growing up he was too old to play with but I admired how he played and went about his life. Thankfully we're both in the NHL."

Kevin Hayes has six goals and 17 points in 44 games for the Rangers. Jimmy Hayes has 13 goals and 20 points in 38 games.

In the previous meeting the Hayes brothers never really had an opportunity to go head-to-head on the ice. Jimmy Hayes believes that could change since each player will be in a top-six role Monday.

"I didn't think we played against each other in the earlier game but it might be a different story now," Jimmy Hayes said. "My mom and dad, my older sister and my niece will be in attendance and that makes it that much more special. This is going to be my first time playing at Madison Square Garden so I'm looking forward to it."

The brothers' father, also named Kevin Hayes, said he's rooting for the Panthers.

"The Rangers have a strong team and look like they will qualify for the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, but the Panthers need to win," said Kevin Hayes Sr. "I want to see both boys in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had 31 saves in a 4-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, will start. He finished the game after getting hit in the throat by a puck early in the second period. He said he felt light-headed and was experiencing headaches after getting hit.

"I feel pretty good," Lundqvist said Monday. "[The neck is a] little stiff, but once you get warm you don't really think about it so I'm ready to go. I'm glad it wasn't worse."

Lundqvist is 15-4-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in his past 19 games. He's tied with Nikolai Khabibulin for 20th on the NHL all-time wins list with 333.

"There was no doubt in my mind that [Lundqvist] would return," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's the ultimate competitor and shows it daily the way he practices and prepares. He wants to win and it showed last game."

Vigneault said he and goalie coach Benoit Allaire have discussed a goaltending rotation going forward and expects backup Cam Talbot to earn his share of starts soon.

The Rangers have won eight of their past 10 games against the Panthers, including five of the past six at Madison Square Garden.

The Panthers, eight points behind the Washington Capitals for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the playoffs, haven't won at the Garden in two years.

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Pirri - Nick Bjugstad - Jimmy Hayes

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Jussi Jokinen

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Alex Petrovic - Dmitry Kulikov

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched:?????????Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann

Injured: None


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Chris Kreider - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

John Moore - Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: J.T. Miller, Matt Hunwick

Injured: None

Status report: Jimmy Hayes and Kopecky were healthy scratches in a loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday but both are expected to return to the lineup Monday, in place of Fleischmann and Upshall. … Stempniak replaces Miller in the lineup.

Who's hot: Ekblad has one goal and three points in the past three games. … Kreider has three goals and five points in the past six games.


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