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Rangers look to call-up Asham for toughness

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- One day after being called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, Arron Asham will be expected to do the things that have helped him carve out an NHL career for the past 14 years.

The veteran forward said he would be focusing on the physical play that has marked his career as he is inserted back into the New York Rangers lineup after spending the past two months in the AHL.

"I just have to come in here and spark a little life in the fourth line, try to get the boys going," Asham said. "Just play the way I have the last 14 years. Finish my checks, chip in offensively here and there and try to keep the puck out of my own net. It seems to have been working out so I'm going to try to work with that and not get too fancy."

Asham started the season with the Rangers but was sent to Hartford after he had no points in three games. In 12 games with the Wolf Pack he had no goals, two assists and 19 penalty minutes. With Derek Dorsett back in the lineup after dealing with a wrist injury, the hope is the Rangers will be a more physical team when they face the Nashville Predators on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) at Madison Square Garden.

"I expect them to bring what they usually bring, a physical dimension to the team," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "If they do that then they'll be useful to our team. Hopefully they can do that."

Vigneault said he's noticed a lack of competitiveness and physicality with his team this season. He cited an Original Six rival as a team he would like his players to emulate.

"Putting the two players that bring more of a physical element to our team, maybe that will make some other players compete at a higher level," Vigneault said. "I look at the Detroit Red Wings, who I know well because I coached against them the last seven years. They have no toughness per se, as far as that type of personnel in their lineup, but those guys play hard. They have the puck and they say, 'Try and get it from me.' Or they don't have it and they battle like hell to get it back. They compete.

"That's the team toughness I'm hoping we would get here. Maybe we'll get there by changing some personnel and adding a little more toughness. We're at .500. I'm trying."

For the Predators, Craig Smith is considered doubtful with the flu, putting on hold an anticipated reunion with Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, who played with Smith at the University of Wisconsin. The trio led Wisconsin to the NCAA championship game in 2009-10, where they fell to Boston College.

Carter Hutton will be in net for the Predators. He sat out Nashville's 5-2 loss Saturday to the Washington Capitals but played the final 18:34 Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes after coach Barry Trotz pulled Marek Mazanec, who had started the Predators' past 13 games. Hutton last started Nov. 10 against the New Jersey Devils.

With franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne still out with a hip injury, Hutton and Mazanec occasionally have shined in the Nashville net. But Trotz still is looking for one goaltender to establish himself as a consistent force in the crease.

"We just need a hot hand, somebody to get hot for us," Trotz said. "We don't score easy, so when things are ending up in our net a little easier it shakes your confidence a little bit. These two guys have been put in a great opportunity. It's a tough situation because they don't have a lot of experience, but at the same time they've been both given a great opportunity."

Henrik Lundqvist will start in net for the Rangers. Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot will be healthy scratches.

Here are the projected lineups for the Predators and Rangers:


Viktor Stalberg - Matt Cullen - Nick Spaling

Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist

Eric Nystrom - Mike Fisher - Colin Wilson

Rich Clune - Paul Gaustad - Matt Hendricks

Shea Weber - Roman Josi

Seth Jones - Ryan Ellis

Kevin Klein - Victor Bartley

Carter Hutton

Marek Mazanec

Scratched: Mattias Ekholm

Injured: Craig Smith (flu), Pekka Rinne (hip), Filip Forsberg (upper body)


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Chris Kreider

Mats Zuccarello - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Carl Hagelin - Derick Brassard - Derek Dorsett

Arron Asham - Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh

Anton Stralman - Michael Del Zotto

John Moore - Justin Falk

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt

Injured: Marc Staal (concussion)

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