RANGERS (32-16-5) at COYOTES (20-29-7)
TV: MSG, FS-A
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- What’s the best thing for the New York Rangers to do while waiting for star goalie Henrik Lundqvist to return from injury?
Keep winning. And backup Cam Talbot is doing his part to make sure they do.
The Rangers tied a season high in goals in a 6-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday. But a big assist went to Talbot, who will make his sixth straight start in place of Lundqvist Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes, who stopped 12 shots in the first eight minutes of the third period when the game was 3-3 and the Avalanche had all the momentum.
Talbot weathered the storm and Carl Hagelin scored on New York’s first shot of the period to put the Rangers up for good.
New York has a chance to sweep the first three games of its four-game road trip and improve to 9-3-1 in a 13-game stretch leading up to a showdown with the New York Islanders Monday. And Talbot is 3-1-1 since Lundqvist, who is on the trip but out until March, and went down with an injured blood vessel in his neck Jan. 31.
The Rangers can give coach Alain Vigneault his 500th NHL coaching win tonight at Gila River Arena, where the Coyotes have lost six straight and are 9-14-4 overall, and is a good place to earn coaching milestones.
San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan became the second-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 300 wins in Arizona Friday when his team rallied from a 2-0 deficit after one period to defeat the Coyotes 4-2
Playing without injured forwards Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal for the rest of the season, the offense-challenged Coyotes used goals by waiver wire pickup Marco Arcobello and Martin Erat to dominate the first period, but a hat trick from Joe Pavelski and three assists from Joe Thornton brought the Sharks back.
"I thought we battled hard," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We just couldn't come up with that next goal we needed."
If the Rangers get an early lead Saturday, they aren’t likely to waste it. The Rangers are an NHL-best 19-1-2 when leading after one period.
Two of New York’s top offensive guns have great success playing the Coyotes: Leading scorer Rick Nash (six goals in the past seven games overall) has a point in 21 of 36 career games against the Coyotes and has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his past 14 games. And the struggling Martin St. Louis (no goals in the past 14 games) has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in the past 11 games against Arizona and six points (three goals, three assists) in the last four.
The Coyotes will have some help tonight. Center Joe Vitale could play for the first time since he suffered a lower body injury on Jan. 27. Arizona made room on the roster by sending Brendan Shinnimin, who struggled against the Sharks, to the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League Saturday morning.
Here are the projected lineups for the game:
Mats Zuccarello - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
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: Jesper Fast (knee), Henrik Lundqvist (neck)
Tobias Rieder - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Lucas Lessio – Mark Arcobello -- Sam Gagner
Lauri Korpikoski – Joe Vitale – Martin Erat
Jordan Martinook - Kyle Chipchura - David Moss
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle – Michael Stone
Andrew Campbell - Connor Murphy
Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, Brandon Gormley
Injured: Mikkel Boedker (spleen), Martin Hanzal (upper body), Alexandre Bolduc (upper body)
Status report: The only roster decision for Vigneault Saturday was whether to play John Moore or Matt Hunwick as the sixth defensemen. … Forward Alexandre Bolduc sat out the San Jose game with an upper body injury but is a possibility for the Coyotes. … Smith is expected to start in the back-to-back for Arizona. It would be his seventh straight start.
Who's hot: Kevin Hayes is coming off the first multi-point game of his career with a goal and two assists against Colorado. …Yandle has 10 points, all assists in the past nine games, but hasn’t scored a goal in 22 games. … New York has scored 28 goals over the past seven games and 11 different players have scored at least once.