RANGERS (20-13-4) at LIGHTNING (18-15-4)
TAMPA -- Forward Jonathan Drouin was activated off injured reserve Tuesday and will return to the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they play the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.
Drouin has not played since Dec. 10 and has two goals and six assists in 18 games this season. He said he doesn't expect he will need much time to get his legs back.
"It's definitely nice to feel good again," Drouin said. "I'm ready to go. It's up to me to get [my legs] again and I'm sure it'll be fine."
Drouin's role will change upon his return as Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov have taken the wing spots on Steven Stamkos' line and are producing good results. Drouin will likely take Erik Condra's spot in the lineup.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he's going to continue to give ice time to "the guys that are rolling" but is happy to have more healthy bodies in the locker room.
Forwards Brian Boyle and Tyler Johnson returned the lineup Monday and Ondrej Palat is aiming for a return during the Lightning's four-game road trip next week.
"These guys have missed extended periods of time, there's always a little bit of the rust factor coming back, so you have to ease these guys in and make sure they get the pace of the game and get some of the rust off," Cooper said. "So we'll get a feel for how these guys are playing and kind of inch them along."
The Lightning are currently 2-1-1 on their six-game homestand after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
The Rangers are 1-4-0 in their past five games and the slump has forced coach Alain Vigneault to change lines and bench forward Kevin Hayes.
Vigneault said the Hayes move was in the best interest of the Rangers. Hayes hasn't scored a goal since Nov. 23 and has three assists in his past 16 games. Emerson Etem will take Hayes' spot in the lineup.
"I think Kevin has had an extra-long leash, especially considering [Derek Stepan] was out for quite some time, but there's just nothing going on," Vigneault told the Rangers website Tuesday. "At the end of the day we're at the point now where we have to make some decisions in the best interest of the team."
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has been pulled in three of his past six starts, will start for the Rangers and goalie Ben Bishop will make his 31st start of the season for the Lightning.
Here are the projected lineups:
J.T. Miller – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Rick Nash – Derek Stepan – Jesper Fast
Chris Kreider - Oscar Lindberg – Emerson Etem
Tanner Glass – Dominic Moore – Viktor Stalberg
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Keith Yandle – Kevin Klein
Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
Scratched: Kevin Hayes, Dylan McIlrath
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Jonathan Marchessault
Jonathan Drouin - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan
J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Erik Condra
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison
Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr
Injured: Ondrej Palat (undisclosed), Joel Vermin (hand surgery)
Scratched: Nikita Nesterov, Erik Condra
Status report: Some of the other moves Vigneault will make include moving Miller to the line with Brassard and Zuccarello, where he will replace Nash, who will now skate with Stepan and Fast.
Who's hot: Kucherov has a six-game point streak (two goals, seven assists). … Miller has scored two goals in the past three games.