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Rangers look for bounce-back effort vs. Wild

by Dan Myers

RANGERS (35-27-4) at WILD (34-22-9)


Last 10: New York 5-4-1; Minnesota 5-2-3

Season series: The New York Rangers beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Dec. 22 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have won four of their past six and 10 of 15 against the Wild, who haven't defeated New York since March 3, 2011.

Big story: The Rangers sit second in the Metropolitan Division with 74 points, one ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers, three up on the New Jersey Devils and four ahead of the Washington Capitals. The Wild are three points clear of the Dallas Stars for the top Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Western Conference and four up on the Phoenix Coyotes, who sit in ninth place.

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, who entered Tuesday having lost seven of eight. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said his team has done a good job of bouncing back after games like the one against Carolina, and with a half-dozen teams on their heels in the Eastern Conference race, Vigneault said he expects the same Thursday.

"We talked about it as a group today, and obviously nobody is happy with how we played last night," Vigneault said following practice in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, prior to the flight to the Twin Cities. "The great thing about this game, and the great thing about this team, is that every time we've had one of those, and we haven't had that many, we have found a way to bounce back with a grade-A effort. That's what we're going to need against Minnesota."

With road games against the Wild and Winnipeg Jets on back-to-back nights, Vigneault said Cam Talbot will start in goal Thursday. Talbot is 11-5-0 this season with a 1.75 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. He started against the Wild in December, stopping 24 of 25 shots.

Wild: Minnesota is coming off a bad loss of its own, 4-3 in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday that the Wild led 3-0 less than 16 minutes into the game. Coach Mike Yeo led an uptempo practice Wednesday that spent a lot of time on the power play and odd-man rush situations, two areas where the Wild have struggled in recent games. Minnesota had 84 seconds of 5-on-3 power play in the second period and 1:51 of 4-on-3 time in overtime against Edmonton but was unable to capitalize either time, managing one shot on goal.

The Wild are still figuring out how to use forward Matt Moulson, acquired last week at the NHL Trade Deadline, hence the power-play drills at this stage of the season.

"The more that we can get out there and work these things, in practice and just getting the reps," Yeo said after practice. "Knowing where guys are and knowing their tendencies, where their sticks are going to be and reading off each other, is going to help more and more."

Yeo said rookie Darcy Kuemper will start in goal 48 hours after he allowed three goals on 26 shots and was beaten by three of four shooters in the shootout.

Who's hot: Rangers center Derek Stepan, a native of Hastings, Minn., was blanked Tuesday against the Hurricanes, snapping a season-long six-game scoring streak. In seven games since returning from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Stepan has one goal and eight assists. … The Wild have lost consecutive games in the shootout, but forward Jason Pominville has scored a goal in each game. He also had an assist Tuesday and leads the Wild with 24 goals and 45 points.

Injury report: The Rangers report no injuries. … The Wild are without goaltenders Niklas Backstrom (abdominal) and Josh Harding (illness) and forward Jason Zucker (lower body).

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