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Fasth starts, Ference returns for Oilers vs. Rangers

by Dan Rosen

OILERS (5-8-1) at RANGERS (6-5-2)


NEW YORK -- Goalie Viktor Fasth will start opposite fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in his career Sunday when the Edmonton Oilers take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Fasth, a native of Kalix, Sweden, will start for the second straight game and third time in the past four. He made 29 saves in a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Fasth has never faced the Rangers in his career.

"We thought he was real solid [Friday] and he's feeling really good about his game," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said Sunday, according to the Oilers website. "We were feeling good about his game and thought it was important to let him roll with it."

Lundqvist got Saturday off at Air Canada Centre, when Cam Talbot played in a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was not happy with the defensive performance in front of Talbot against the Maple Leafs. He was particularly disappointed that the forwards did not get in shooting lanes, a problem Vigneault said has persisted for the past couple of games.

"We generated enough scoring chances, we got four goals, it's defensively that we need to tighten up," Vigneault said. "It's two things. It's boxing out in front of our net. We're giving the opposition way too many tips that are making it real challenging for our goaltenders. And it's our forwards going out into shooting lanes to maybe block a couple of those shots. It's not real complicated right now as far as playing better defensively.

"[Saturday] night there were a couple of simple wristers there that instead of finding the lane we sort of found a way to slip by it and it hurt us at the end of the night."

The Oilers will have captain and defenseman Andrew Ference back in the lineup. Ference missed the past three games because of a suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian on Nov. 1.

Edmonton won one of three games without Ference, who is averaging 18:56 of ice time per game. The Oilers win against Buffalo snapped a four-game losing streak.

"I've played probably close to 1,000 games all around and I don't know how many hits that would be, but that's a lot so I think it's pretty much business as normal," Ference said, according to the Oilers website. "Obviously you take into consideration what has gotten you in trouble before, but there's a reason I have stayed in this League for long and it's playing a certain style of game."

The game also marks the return of Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot to New York. Pouliot had 36 points, including 15 goals, in 80 games with the Rangers last season, establishing chemistry with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. He had 10 points in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Pouliot signed a five-year contract with the Oilers on July 1.

"It's going to be nice. It's going to be fun. I'm excited," Pouliot said, according to the Oilers website. "Not too stressed right now, but probably come game time I'll be a little bit more nervous. I feel good. I feel excited. We had a good run last year. There's a bunch of good dudes on the other side. It's going to be fun to play against them and see them on the ice."

Here are the projected lineups:


Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Mark Arcobello - David Perron

Teddy Purcell - Leon Draisaitl - Iiro Pakarinen

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz

Jeff Petry - Nikita Nikitin

Keith Aulie - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Injured: Taylor Hall (knee)

Scratched: Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Tanner Glass - Kevin Hayes - Anthony Duclair

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

Matt Hunwick - Dan Girardi

Conor Allen - Michael Kostka

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Ryan Malone

Injured: Ryan McDonagh (shoulder), Dan Boyle (hand)

Suspended: John Moore

Status report: Fasth is starting despite the fact that Scrivens stopped 72 of 73 shots in two starts at Madison Square Garden last season. … Stepan had an assist in 26 shifts totaling 17:26 of ice time in his season debut Saturday. Faceoffs were a problem as he won six of 19. He missed the first 12 games recovering from a fractured leg, an injury he sustained in the preseason. … The Rangers are 3-3-0 this season when trailing after two periods. They have scored 20 of their 37 goals in either the third period or overtime. They have scored in the third period in 11 of 13 games this season. … Edmonton is 0-5-0 when trailing after two periods and has been outscored 19-13 in the third period.

Who's hot: Nash tied Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry for the League lead in goals by scoring his 11th of the season on Saturday. He has goals in back-to-back games. … Brassard has five points on one goal and four assists in the past three games. … St. Louis also has five points in the past three games on three goals and two assists. … Kreider has four points in the past three games on two goals and two assists. … Gordon has goals in each of the past two games after not scoring in the first 12 games. … Arcobello also has goals in each of the past two games.


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