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Rangers, Canucks still searching for an identity

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- Roughly a third of the way into their first seasons with their respective new teams, Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella and New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault are still looking to establish a team identity, or at least one that matches what they envisioned when they first took over their new jobs.

It's an unusual situation, considering the two coaches essentially swapped jobs during the summer when Tortorella was fired after slightly more than four seasons in New York and Vigneault was let go after seven seasons in Vancouver.

Entering his first regular season game against his former team, Tortorella admitted the Canucks were still finding themselves as a team.

"I don't think so. I think we're making strides. I don't think we've totally nailed it down," Tortorella said when asked if the Canucks had found their identity. "I think it's very important we get there as soon as possible. I think you need it to be who you are. We still haven't totally defined that. I have an idea of who we'd like to be. But we're still in the process of trying to get that to be instinctive for our players and how we play."

After losing 3-2 to the Boston Bruins on Friday afternoon, Vigneault was still shifting around his lineup in the hopes of getting more offensive production from his defense. Ryan McDonagh has enjoyed a breakout season with six goals and 14 points through 26 games.

The rest of New York's defensive corps has contributed little in the offensive end, inspiring Vigneault to reinsert Michael Del Zotto into the lineup for John Moore, who ranks second among Rangers defensemen with five points.

"We're working on that with our defense," Vigneault said. "There's a belief here, a strong belief, that there is more offensive potential with this D corps. We're trying to work to improve it."

While Vigneault will rely on Del Zotto's offensive skills to help join the Rangers' rush, he made it clear he would not be looking to expand the role of veteran defenseman Anton Stralmen, who has no goals and two assists in 26 games and leads all Rangers defensemen with an even plus-minus rating.

"[In Stralman], I see a defenseman that is really dependable and takes a check to make a play in our zone so we can come out clean," Vigneault said. "As far as the other part of his game, I'm not sure the potential is there. It could be there, we're working on it."

Derek Dorsett, who missed two games with a wrist injury, is back in the lineup as Taylor Pyatt sits. Cam Talbot will start for New York. The 26-year-old has won his past five starts and has allowed just one goal in the past 166:26.

Neither team skated before the Saturday matinee, although Vigneault confirmed he would continue to shake up his forward lines.

Here are the projected lineups for the Canucks and Rangers:


Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Daniel Sedin

David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen

Chris Higgins - Mike Santorelli - Dale Weise

Tom Sestito - Brad Richardson - Zack Kassian

Jason Garrison - Alexander Edler

Kevin Bieksa - Ryan Stanton

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev

Roberto Luongo

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Jeremy Welsh, Zac Dalpe, Andrew Alberts

Injured: Jordan Schroeder (ankle)


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Rick Nash

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Ryan Callahan

Derek Dorsett - Dominic Moore - Brian Boyle

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh

Anton Stralman - Marc Staal

Michael Del Zotto - Justin Falk

Cam Talbot

Henrik Lundqvist

Scratched: Taylor Pyatt, John Moore

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