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Rangers coach Vigneault returns to Vancouver

by Jon Lane

RANGERS (42-30-4) at CANUCKS (34-31-11)


Last 10: New York 7-3-0; Vancouver 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. Chris Kreider's hat trick led the Rangers to a 5-2 win against the Canucks in former coach John Tortorella's return to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30.

Big story: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault returns to the city where he coached for seven seasons for the first time with his current team moving closer to clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He explained to reporters how it was a different feeling compared to September when the Rangers played the Canucks in a preseason game.

"This is night and day from when we came in during training camp," Vigneault said Monday. "It was a very emotional time for me, it was my first time back. Now it's all about winning games. We're in a real tough conference. We're in a tough fight to get into the playoffs, and we need every point we can get so my focus right now is to get our team ready to play against Vancouver [Tuesday]."

On the other bench, Tortorella faces his former team with his Canucks on the outside of the postseason bubble.

"I've been gone long enough. I don't do too much reminiscing right now," Tortorella told reporters Monday. "I'm just trying to spend my time trying to keep this team playing. We don't spend a lot of time on the other team."

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York tied a franchise record with 24 road wins Sunday after a 5-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers and has won six of seven overall. The Rangers' surge has them in second place in the Metropolitan Division with six games remaining and a magic number of seven to qualify for the postseason.

"The one thing about our team is that it's a hard-working group," Vigneault said. "They come to practice and they work, they focus, and they bust their butt. Since the first time I've been on the ice with them they've had this drive to learn and to improve and to get better, and that hasn't changed."

Canucks: Vancouver has won seven of 23 games since Jan. 27 and 11 of 36 since Dec. 30. Four wins of any kind by the Phoenix Coyotes, or four by the Dallas Stars (at least three in regulation or overtime) and the Canucks will be eliminated from playoff contention in Tortorella's first season behind the bench.

"Are we going to get in? It's very slim and we've known that, but it still doesn't stop you from working at your business, with your team," Tortorella said. "We continue to do the things that we're trying to do and that will go right to the bitter end, when they say you can't play anymore."

Who's hot: Rangers center Derek Stepan has 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in his past 17 games. Forward Derick Brassard scored his career-high 18th goal Sunday and has five goals in his past seven games. Forward Rick Nash has five goals in his past seven … Canucks forward Zack Kassian is on a four-game scoring streak (2-5-7). Forward Brad Richardson has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past five games.

Injury report: According to Vigneault, Rangers defenseman John Moore (concussion) will need one more practice and then it will be a "coach's decision" as to when he'll return to the lineup. Kreider (left hand surgery) is out indefinitely … The Canucks are without defensemen Andrew Alberts (concussion) and Christopher Tanev (broken finger), and forwards Henrik Sedin (lower body) and Mike Santorelli (right shoulder surgery).

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL

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