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Road-weary Canucks return home to host Rangers

by Kevin Woodley

CANUCKS (18-9-2) at RANGERS (12-10-4)


Season series: The New York Rangers went 2-0-0 last season against the Vancouver Canucks under first-year coach Alain Vigneault, who was let go by Vancouver after the 2012-13 season. But the bigger constant in New York's four-game winning streak against Vancouver is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He and backup Cam Talbot each had a victory against the Canucks last season, but Lundqvist shut out Vancouver in his two prior games and is 3-0-0 with a .934 save percentage in his career against the Canucks.

Rangers team scope: After a 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday that snapped a two-game losing streak, Vigneault did not want to change his top-two forward lines. That means J.T. Miller will stay on the second line in place of Chris Kreider, who missed the win against Pittsburgh with neck spasms after a practice collision and will make his return on the fourth line. Miller, a 21-year-old who has shifted from center to wing, started the season with the Rangers but was sent to the minors after three games before being called up Nov. 29. He is playing the left side with center Derek Stepan and right wing Martin St. Louis. "I don't want to break that line up," said Vigneault, whose team is playing the first of three games in four nights after four days off. "J.T. has played well." Kreider, 23, will take the spot of former Vancouver left wing Tanner Glass on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast. Kreider has four goals and 13 points in 24 games, is 11th in the NHL with 48 penalty minutes and hasn't scored in 11 games. "I know how I have to play," Kreider said. "I don't need somebody to send me a message."

Canucks team scope: The Canucks were still showing the effects of a seven-game, 15-day road trip that concluded with a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday when they returned to the ice for practice on Friday. The fatigue that was evident during a 0-2-1 finish to the season's longest trip was still there after two days off, which doesn't bode well for a franchise that has often struggled in its first game back after a road trip. "I don't think it's hard to get up for, I think it's hard to play though," coach Willie Desjardins said. "When I watched us in practice we were sluggish. It's not like the guys didn't want to go, it's like they were skating in sand or running in sand." At least the Canucks won't be complacent coming off their first three-game losing streak of the season. "For sure we won't be overconfident going in," Desjardins said.

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