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St. Louis back as Rangers chase division title vs. Wild

by Dan Myers /

RANGERS (48-21-7) at WILD (44-25-7)


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In their quest to win a division championship, the New York Rangers will get a crucial piece to the lineup back from injury when they play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-N, FS-WI).

A victory against the Wild would secure the Metropolitan Division title for New York, following a 4-1 loss by the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

Right wing Martin St. Louis, who has missed the past eight games with a lower-body injury, is set to return. St. Louis has 20 goals and 27 assists in 68 games.

"I'm not used to not being part [of the lineup]," St. Louis told the Rangers website on Wednesday. "I don't know what the amount of games I've missed in my career is, but I know it's not a lot."

St. Louis is expected to begin the game on the Rangers third line with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes. New York did not skate Thursday morning, but that's where St. Louis was at practice on Wednesday.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he wanted forward J.T. Miller to stay with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider after their solid game together against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

"I thought overall that line was pretty effective at both ends of the rink," Vigneault told the Rangers website Wednesday. "It was the first time that we tried those three. I'm not 100 percent sure that's what I'm going to do, but I would say I'm at least 90 percent sure that's how we're going to start off [Thursday]."

Minnesota will have forward Kyle Brodziak back in the lineup after he missed the past three games with an upper-body injury. With Brodziak in, forward Erik Haula will be a healthy scratch.

"We like depth and we like the fact that we have depth that we know we can plug in," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "There's a lot of challenges and a lot of things that aren't ideal. The number of bodies for practice and for skates is a challenge, but things change quickly."

Goaltender Devan Dubnyk will make his 35th consecutive start with the Wild since being acquired Jan. 14 and 36th straight overall. He will oppose Henrik Lundqvist, who made 33 saves Tuesday in his first victory since returning from injury last Saturday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Matt Hunwick

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: James Sheppard

Injured: Kevin Klein (arm)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Chris Stewart

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Carter - Kyle Brodziak - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Jordan Leopold - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Niklas Backstrom, Erik Haula, Sean Bergenheim, Christian Folin

Injured: Matt Cooke (sports hernia), Jason Zucker (clavicle), Keith Ballard (concussion/facial fractures)

Status report: Staal had a maintenance day Wednesday but should be in the lineup. … Yeo mentioned a possible return for Cooke on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Who's hot: Zuccarello has at least a point in six of his past seven, including a goal Tuesday in a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets. He had a goal and two assists against the Wild in New York's 5-4 win in October, his lone three-point game of the season. … Koivu has points in three consecutive games and in four of his past five, including a two-goal, three-point game last Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.

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