CANUCKS (32-21-3) at RANGERS (34-16-5)
TV: TVA, SNP, MSG
NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will lead you to believe that the game against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday is simply just another important regular-season match at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are second in the Metropolitan Division with 34 wins and 73 points and trail the first-place New York Islanders by four points with three games in hand. The Canucks are third in the Pacific Division with 32 wins and 67 points, one point behind the second-place Calgary Flames and 10 behind the Anaheim Ducks.
Still, the memory bank will certainly be flooded when Vigneault leads his charges against the team for which he spent seven seasons as coach. From 2006-07 through 2012-13, Vigneault was Vancouver's all-time leader in games coached (540), wins (313), Stanley Cup Playoff wins (33) and playoff games coached (68), marks that will always have a place in his heart.
Vigneault became the 21st head coach in NHL history to win 500 games on Feb. 14 in a victory against the Arizona Coyotes. He currently has 501 career wins in 943 games coached.
"I spent seven years there and coached a lot of games and they gave me a second opportunity," Vigneault said after the Rangers' optional morning skate. "I obviously have very strong feelings but at the end of the day it's about getting two points and we need two points so it should be a really good game."
Vigneault has won all three games against the Canucks since being hired by the Rangers in June 2013. He's outscored his former team 13-4, which includes a 5-1 victory at Rogers Arena on Dec. 13.
"He was there for quite some time and there are still players over there that he coached," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "There's a little bit of history and emotion, but the last time we played them, he seemed like himself and as a player that's what you would expect your coach to be. It's like any other game."
Not that the Canucks are catching the Rangers at a good time right now either. New York has won four straight and is 7-1-1 in its past nine games while outscoring the opposition 39-25. Playing a big part in the recent success has been backup goalie Cam Talbot, who has filled in admirably for the injured Henrik Lundqvist. While Lundqvist continues his recovery from a vascular injury at the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y., Talbot will make his eighth straight start.
In the absence of Lundqvist, Talbot is 5-1-1 in seven games. In his only other appearance against the Canucks in his career, Talbot made 35 saves in a 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30, 2013.
Vigneault hasn't yet determined if Talbot or backup Mackenzie Skapski, who has yet to play a game, will start against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
The Rangers begin a stretch of three games in four nights, including Friday's game at Buffalo that is a makeup of the game postponed due to snow Nov. 21. They play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Vancouver starting goaltender Ryan Miller is 13-8-5 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 27 career games against the Rangers. The Canucks will kick off a five-game road set against teams in the Eastern Conference. They play the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Friday.
Here are the projected lineups:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Radim Vrbata
Derek Dorsett - Shawn Matthias - Zack Kassian
Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa - Alex Biega
Ryan Stanton - Adam Clendening
Scratched: Brandon McMillan
Injured: Alexander Edler (upper body), Frank Corrado (upper body), Nick Bonino (lower body), Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (ankle), Christopher Tanev (upper body)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Kevin Klein
John Moore - Dan Boyle
Scratched: Matt Hunwick
Injured: Henrik Lundqvist (neck), Jesper Fast (knee)
Status update: Tanev is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. … Moore, who was a healthy scratch against the New York Islanders on Monday, returns to the lineup in place of Hunwick. … Vigneault said that Fast is "riding the bike and by next week he should be skating again." Fast will miss his sixth straight game to injury. The Canucks recalled defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti from Utica of the American Hockey League.
Who's hot: Horvat has four goals and eight points in his past 10 games. … Klein is on a career-high five-game point streak, producing one goal and seven points over that stretch.