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At the Rink: Rangers at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The New York Rangers play Saturday for the first time since defenseman Dan Boyle sustained a broken hand two days prior against the St. Louis Blues that is expected to cost him 4-6 weeks.

Matt Hunwick will replace him when the Rangers play the Columbus Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena. Hunwick, signed as a free agent from the Colorado Avalanche on July 1, will be with John Moore on the third defensive pairing.

Despite the loss of Boyle, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault expects his defensemen to be an integral part of a speedy attack that has the Blue Jackets worried.

"One of the things that permits us to play a fast game and an up-tempo game, the type of style we like to play, is it's important for us that our defense put the puck in the hands of our forwards," Vigneault said. "That's the only way you can play fast. It's an element I believe since myself and my staff have been here that we've worked on, we've improved, but it's still an area that we need to continue to improve."

Hunwick, a left-side shooter like Moore, will play on the right while Kevin Klein moves up to Boyle's spot alongside Marc Staal. There will be no changes to the forward combinations after the 3-2 win against the Blues.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets plan no alterations for their home opener coming off a 3-1 win at the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

"You want to use the energy the crowd is going to provide, but you have to channel it," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "You can't let it take you over the edge. Our focus is going to be important in how we want to play this game."

There will be plenty of emotion for this burgeoning rivalry between Metropolitan Division opponents. There are several former Rangers now with Columbus and vice versa, most notably former Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash making his second appearance in Nationwide Arena since being traded in July 2012.

His first game back on March 21, 2014 was a wild affair. He was given more cheers than boos during a video tribute but earned the scorn of the fans by getting into two shoving incidents with Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Finally, early in the third period, Columbus left wing Matt Calvert engaged Nash in a fight to the delight of the crowd.

"It's all part of the game, right?" Calvert said. "The fans love it. It's awesome. It was good on him to drop the gloves last year too. That made for an exciting game.

"It was a situational fight. Rick was great to me when he was here. There was never anything between us. It's never like I hated the guy. It just happens. It gets competitive out there, you have battles and sometimes you have to fight."

Nash doesn't think there will be a carryover into the game Saturday.

"It's over and done," he said. "Last season for this whole locker room is forgotten. We've kind of moved on. They're a division team, so we're going to see them a lot."

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kreider - Martin St. Louis - Rick Nash

Carl Hagelin - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Anthony DuclairJ.T. Miller - Lee Stempniak

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc StaalKevin Klein

John Moore - Matt Hunwick

Cam Talbot

Henrik Lundqvist

Scratched: Ryan Malone, Michael Kostka,

Injured: Dan Boyle (broken hand), Derek Stepan (broken leg), Kevin Hayes (shoulder)


Nick FolignoRyan JohansenCam Atkinson

Scott HartnellArtem Anisimov- Alexander Wennberg

Matt CalvertMark LetestuMarko Dano

Jack SkilleMichael ChaputJared Boll

Jack JohnsonDavid Savard

Fedor TyutinDalton Prout

Tim ErixonJames Wisniewski

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Corey Tropp, Adam Cracknell, Cody Goloubef

Injured: Ryan Murray (knee), Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal), Brian Gibbons (lower body), Boone Jenner (broken hand), Nathan Horton (back)

Status report: Talbot will get his first start of the season Saturday for the Rangers. Lundqvist played Thursday and is scheduled to start the home opener Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. … The Rangers on Friday called up Kostka to be the seventh defenseman. … Murray, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in June, has been practicing with the Blue Jackets but is not ready for game action. … The Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday forward Simon Hjalmarsson has told the Blue Jackets he will return to Sweden rather than report to Springfield of the American Hockey League. The Blue Jackets are expected to suspend him until he clears waivers.

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