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At the Rink: Rangers at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks haven't won consecutive games since Nov. 2. They hope to establish that elusive winning streak beginning Wednesday against the New York Rangers (10 p.m. ET; SN, MSG+).

Vancouver's win Monday against the Buffalo Sabres was their fourth in the past 17 games.

"Winning one here and there is not going to do anything," defenseman Christopher Tanev said. "You need to try and get three, four in a row and try and build some momentum. The last two weeks have been tough. The last game was a good step forward, but it means nothing if we lose tonight."

Although the Canucks won't make any lineup changes, that doesn't mean coach Willie Desjardins won't make adjustments once the game starts. Forward Radim Vrbata's hat trick Monday included a goal on three different lines. The only line that has stayed intact recently is Daniel and Henrik Sedin with Jannik Hansen, who have combined for 22 goals and 31 assists in the past 17 games.

"As a player that's what you want but at the same time I understand when things aren't going well you change things up and try to look for the line combinations that work for you," Daniel Sedin said. "They did last game so hopefully we can keep this going."

In addition to Vrbata's hat trick and a power play goal for Henrik Sedin, fourth-liner Brandon Prust scored his first of the season and added an assist. It was one of the few times since October the Canucks, who have missed veteran center Brandon Sutter since Nov. 10, established the four-line approach that worked so well last season.

"Every line played great last game and that means a lot," Daniel Sedin said. "If we can push the pace and play in their end, then the next line up is going to have a good shift too. That's the way it works, it's all about momentum."

The Rangers are hoping to establish a little momentum of their own Wednesday.

After relying too heavily on goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta at times during a 16-3-2 start that included nine straight wins through mid-November, New York went 1-4-1 before defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1 at home on Sunday.

Even when the Rangers were winning early, their possession numbers weren't great, suggesting a correction was coming. It seemed to happen during the recent six-game slide but Alain Vigneault, who will coach his 999th career game Wednesday against the Canucks team he coached for seven seasons, saw signs of improvement against Ottawa.

The key now is to build on it during this three-game Western Canada road trip, which the Rangers swept last season.

"We've been better in many areas, notably with our puck possession and the decisions we've been making with the puck," Vigneault said after practice Tuesday. "We're on the right track and I see a mindset to continue that."

The only Rangers to skate Wednesday were Raanta and Lundqvist, who will start against the Canucks, and forward Emerson Etem, who will be a healthy scratch when New York dresses the same lineup it used against Ottawa.

Here are the projected lineups:


Kevin Hayes - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris KreiderOscar LindbergRick Nash

J.T. MillerDominic MooreJesper Fast

Tanner Glass - Jarret Stoll - Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: Derek Stepan (broken ribs), Kevin Klein (strained oblique)

Scratched: Emerson Etem


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Chris Higgins - Jared McCann - Radim Vrbata

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Alexandre Burrows

Brandon Prust - Adam Cracknell - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Alex Biega

Ben Hutton - Matt Bartkowski

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Injured: Luca Sbisa (hand), Brandon Sutter (sports hernia surgery)

Scratched: Ronalds Kenins, Yannick Weber

Status report: Canucks rookie right wing Jake Virtanen was sent to the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment Tuesday after missing a week with a hip injury, but Desjardins indicated the 19-year-old could rejoin the Canucks on a six-game road trip that starts Sunday and takes them through to Christmas.

Who's hot: Lundqvist, who leads NHL starters with a .938 save percentage, has won his past four starts against the Canucks, including two shutouts and a .985 save percentage. New York has won three straight in Vancouver by a combined 12-2 score.

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