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Lundqvist faces Kings for first time since Cup Final

Los Angeles has four-point lead on Anaheim for first place in Pacific Division

by Abbey Mastracco / Correspondent

RANGERS (40-23-7) at KINGS (42-22-5) 

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, SNE, SNO, MSG, FS-W 

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The New York Rangers continue their California swing against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday in a matchup of teams that played in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

The teams played twice last season, and the Kings won 5-4 in overtime at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 12. But for Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to start according to coach Alain Vigneault, it will be his first game against the Los Angeles since a double-overtime loss in Game 5 that ended the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. He missed the two games last season due to injury and didn't play in the Kings' 5-4 overtime win at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 12.

Lundqvist had the night off on Wednesday, when the Rangers, 8-5-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season, won 2-1 at the Anaheim Ducks. Defenseman Kevin Klein scored twice and backup goalie Antti Raanta made 22 saves. Klein became the first Rangers defenseman to score two goals in one game this season.

The Kings hold a four-point lead over the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. Coach Darryl Sutter wants to match line-for-line in order to counter the Rangers' forward depth. Rick Nash will play his fourth game after missing 20 games with a bone bruise in his left leg. Center Eric Staal has a goal, three points and a plus-2 rating in eight games since New York acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 28.

The Rangers are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the New York Islanders.

"They're a big team, first and foremost," Sutter said. "Their top guys are big guys that compete to score and compete for their offense. That's why they're a really good hockey club. They're a tough team to play against because of everybody in their lineup. They run four deep and they use everybody."

Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said the key is containing the Rangers' speed game. The Kings want to dictate the pace by coming hard on the forecheck and keeping the Rangers in their own zone. 

Scuderi is especially familiar with the Rangers, having played against them frequently as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Scuderi said with Nash back on the top line, slowing the Rangers by playing a physical game is even more important. 

"Just like anything, try to take away time and space," Scuderi said. "They're a line that uses their quickness very well. Nash can be physical at times, but that's not necessarily that line's forte; they use their speed and their quickness to get out on the forecheck and disrupt things. I think if we break the puck out well and limit second opportunities, I like our chances."

The Rangers did not skate Thursday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello  

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

J.T. Miller - Eric Staal - Kevin Hayes

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Viktor Stalberg  

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: Dylan McIlrath (knee)

Scratched: Oscar Lindberg


Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Kris Versteeg

Kyle Clifford - Jeff Carter - Dustin Brown

Dwight King - Nick Shore - Tyler Toffoli  

Tanner Pearson - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty

Brayden McNabb - Luke Schenn

Jonathan Quick

Jhonas Enroth

Injured: Marian Gaborik (knee), Matt Greene (shoulder), Jordan Nolan (undisclosed)

Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Jamie McBain

Status report: McDonagh caught a deflected puck off the side of his helmet at the end of the game Wednesday and remained down on the ice for a few minutes afterwards. However, coach Alain Vigneault said he was alright and expected him to play against Los Angeles. … The Kings tried several different defenseman combinations at the morning skate but Sutter didn't confirm whether or not they would change come game time. 

Who's hot: Klein has four points in his past five games. … Brassard has five points (three goals, two assists) in six games. … Stepan has nine points (three goals, six assists) in nine games. … Versteeg has three points in two games. … Kopitar has 10 points in eight games and 14 in 12 career games against the Rangers. … Lucic is on a seven-game point streak (3-6-9). … Quick has won seven of his past 10 decisions (7-2-1).

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