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Rangers, Coyotes meet minus top players

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com

RANGERS (9-2-2) at COYOTES (6-5-1)

TV: MSG, FS-A

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers are each expected to be without top-line players when they play Saturday at Gila River Arena.

Forward Rick Nash is expected to miss his second straight game with a back injury sustained Thursday in practice. The Rangers didn't skate Saturday.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said center Antoine Vermette would miss another game with a lower-body injury that has hampered him for several weeks, though he could be close to returning.

"He skated Friday and but he won't be a player tonight," Tippett said. "If he's able to practice Sunday and feel like he's ready to go full speed we'll be able to welcome him back."

The Coyotes and Rangers each come off wins against the Colorado Avalanche. Arizona defenseman Nicklas Grossmann had the first two-goal game of his NHL career in a 4-2 win against them Thursday, and the Rangers earned a 2-1 win in Colorado on Friday behind 29 saves from Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist will get the night off in favor of backup Antti Raanta. All three of his starts this season have now come on the tail end of back-to-back games. Defenseman Dan Boyle is expected to play after being scratched in the past two games.

Boyle would be paired with Keith Yandle, who will make his return to Gila River Arena for the first time as an opponent. After more than eight seasons with the Coyotes, Yandle was traded last March for a package that included young forward Anthony Duclair, who is tied for the Arizona lead with five goals in 12 games.

The Rangers are red hot, having won four straight games with points in eight straight games (6-0-2).

Tippett said the offensive outburst shed some light on Grossmann but he and partner Connor Murphy have played very well as a tandem over the first 12 games.

"Grossmann has been a good player for our team all year and Murph's been right there with him," Tippett said. "You have a mentor and a young player who are both doing their part to make it a good pair. In the games that we've won in hard-fought battles they have been a big part of things."

Goalie Mike Smith will make his 12th start in 13 games for the Coyotes. Captain Shane Doan will tie Dale Hunter (1,407) for 33rd place on the all-time NHL game played list.

Here are the projected lineups:

RANGERS

Emerson Etem - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Oscar Lindberg- Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg

Jesper Fast - Dominic Moore - Jarret Stoll

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle - Dan Boyle

Antti Raanta

Henrik Lundqvist

Scratched: Dylan McIlrath

Injured: Rick Nash (back)

COYOTES

Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair

Max Domi - Tyler Gaudet - Mikkel Boedker

Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Steve Downie

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone

Klas Dahlbeck - Zbynek Michalek

Nicklas Grossman - Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

Anders Lindback

Injured: Stefan Elliott (upper body), Antoine Vermette (lower body), Joe Vitale (upper body)

Scratched: John Scott

Status update: Elliott was able to practice Friday and could play Saturday, although Tippett was happy with the Coyotes' defense play. … Tippett liked Gaudet's effort as a second-line center in place of Vermette against the Avalanche and the rookie will get another shot in the top six.

Who's hot: Smith needs one win for 100 victories with the Coyotes. … Rieder has four of his five goals this season in five home games, including one Thursday against Colorado.

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