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At the Rink: Rangers at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins has been praised for his consistency throughout his first two months on the job, sticking with his lineup through slumps and mistakes.

So it’s probably not a coincidence his first significant line juggling comes after the first three-game losing streak of the season.

Coming off a 0-2-1 finish to a seven-game road trip, Desjardins is dropping Radim Vrbata from the top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, and moving him down to a struggling second line centered by Nick Bonino. Rather than re-uniting Alexandre Burrows with the Sedins, however, Desjardins is moving Jannik Hansen up from the fourth line to the first, and dropping Chris Higgins from the second to fourth.

With Shawn Matthias playing on the third line after missing the past two games with a head injury, all four Vancouver lines will have a new look against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.

"I don’t think it's shocking," captain Henrik Sedin said. "I wouldn't call it a wake-up call either. I don’t think the changes are major. It’s moving one player off each line pretty much and that’s no problem. It’s when you see changes after one period in each and every game and you never get any familiarity with guys, that’s when it's tough."

Desjardins has resisted constant tinkering of lines during most of the Canucks 18-9-2 start, but started moving players in the final game of a season-long road trip that included a slumping second line.

Burrows, Bonino and Higgins don’t have a point in six games.

"I have lots of confidence in the Higgins-Bonino-Burrows line, it’s not like I think that line can’t be good," Desjardins said. "But there are going to be things that happen in a year that we are not going to be able to stay with those lines so I want to have a look at it."

Bonino, a self-described pass-first center with seven goals and 12 assists in 29 games this season, should benefit from playing with Vrbata, who leads the Canucks with 12 goals and 101 shots. And the Sedins have played with Hansen before, who is second on the team with eight goals despite mostly fourth-line duty.

"I really enjoy playing with him," Henrik Sedin said. "Throughout the years he has been with us at a few different occasions and it’s always been good. He’s fast, gives us a lot of room, gets in on the forecheck and I have nothing but good things to say about him."

Of course, the coach indicated the changes might not last long.

"I just want to mix it up, I want to see a different look and how long I will stay that way I don’t know," Desjardins continued. "But I do know I have been happy about what they have done in the past so I’m not worried about going back to that grouping again."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

J.T. Miller - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Lee Stempniak

Chris Kreider - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Tanner Glass, Matt Hunwick


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Alexandre Burrows - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata

Shawn MatthiasBrad Richardson - Linden Vey

Chris Higgins - Bo Horvat - Derek Dorsett

Alexander EdlerChristopher Tanev

Luca SbisaKevin Bieksa

Ryan StantonYannick Weber

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Alex Biega

Injured: Zack Kassian (finger), Dan Hamhuis (lower body)

Status report: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault explained after practice Friday why he plans to keep J.T. Miller on the second line in place of Chris Kreider, who returns to a fourth line spot after missing one game with neck spasms. “I know Chris’s intentions are real good, his work ethic is real good, but he’s a good solid two-way player but he needs to bring some offensive production,” Vigneault said of Kreider, who hasn’t scored in 11 games. “Some of the close games we have been on the wrong side of right now a lot of it has been due to not getting that timely goal we need and we have a few guys right now that I believe have good offensive potential and that need to get on the score sheet for us and Chris is one of them.”

Who's hot: Richardson had four goals and four assists on the seven-game road trip and should benefit from the return of Matthias, who had four goals and two assists in five games before missing the past two with a head injury. … Brassard has two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak and Hayes has two goals and two assists during his four-game point streak while centering the third line.

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