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At the Rink: Stars at Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will play against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday after being a healthy scratch for the past two games. He will replace Emerson Etem in the lineup. Etem will be a healthy scratch.

Forward Jayson Megna will make his season debut for the Rangers in place of Chris Kreider, who is day-to-day with a hand injury. Megna was recalled on Monday from Hartford of the American Hockey League, where he has seven goals and 18 points in 34 games this season.

Hayes initially was scratched for the first time this season at the Tampa Bay Lightning last Wednesday because coach Alain Vigneault felt he wasn't working hard or doing enough to stay in the lineup. Vigneault expressed he had reached "a tipping point" with Hayes, who has 17 points in 37 games this season, but only three points, all assists, in his past 16 games.

"I'm confident that he's going to respond the right way," Vigneault said. "Really strong preparation on his part and I'm expecting him to go on the ice tonight, make the plays that he needs to make with the puck to have success at both ends of the rink and through the neutral zone. And I expect him to compete real hard when he doesn't have the puck, to get it back and once he gets it back to find a way to use his two linemates."

Vigneault said Hayes has been focused and working long hours with the Rangers' conditioning personnel to ensure he stayed in shape while he was out of the lineup.

"He's controlling the elements that he can control, now he has to go on the ice, step out and play well," Vigneault said. "We need him to play well. He's done it in the past for us. He's done it in big times. We need him to step up and have a good game for us."

Hayes had 45 points in 79 games as a rookie last season.

"Every player at some point or another goes through adversity," Vigneault said. "I'm thinking of Mats Zuccarello my first year [in New York]. He went through a real challenging time, worked his way through it, and has become one of our top players. Kevin has all the possibilities. He has great tools. We all know it. He's got to find a way to put it all together."

The Rangers are trying to find a way to put their game back together after a strong start. They have won only five of their past 18 games (5-11-2) after winning 16 of their first 21 games (16-3-2).

Meanwhile, the Stars are hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. They hadn't lost two in a row until losing to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders to start this three-game road trip.

"[The Rangers] are a team that's looking to right the ship and get it going in the right direction, play some consistent hockey, and I feel our team is really in the same place," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We want to make a stand on this last game of the road trip, play our game and try to remain consistent. I think if we're consistent with how we play, we'll win our share of games."

Stars goalie Antti Niemi will get the start. He has allowed 11 goals in his past seven appearances. Henrik Lundqvist will start in net for the Rangers for the ninth straight game. He has allowed 27 goals in his previous eight starts.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Colton Sceviour

Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: Ales Hemsky (lower body)

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Radek Faksa, Patrik Nemeth


J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Jayson Megna

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast

Viktor Stalberg - Dominic Moore - Tanner Glass

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: Chris Kreider (hand)

Scratched: Emerson Etem, Dylan McIlrath

Status report: Vigneault said he wasn't sure if Megna would play on the wing or at center, but he's looking forward to giving him an opportunity and feels he's versatile enough to play any position.

"We've had some really good reports from our guys in Hartford on how he's been playing, very consistent on both ends of the rink, very competitive," Vigneault said. "We feel it would be a good time to see what he can do at this level and give him an opportunity. He's a pretty versatile player and we're going to give him an opportunity tonight and hopefully he does well for us."

Ruff said the Stars might have a forward who will be a game-time decision, which could mean Faksa will play.

Who's hot: Sharp has 12 points during a nine-game point streak, the longest active point streak in the NHL and second longest this season. Spezza has six points during a four-game point streak. Benn has 11 points in his past nine games and Seguin has four goals in his past six games. Klingberg has five assists during a four-game point streak.


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