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Stepan returns to Rangers lineup against Jets

by Patrick Williams

RANGERS (19-10-4) at JETS (14-15-2)


WINNIPEG -- Center Derek Stepan will return to the New York Rangers lineup when they face the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Friday.

Stepan has missed 10 games because of broken ribs. Coach Alain Vigneault was unsure who would be taken out of the lineup.

The Rangers recalled goaltender Magnus Hellberg and defenseman Chris Summers from Hartford on Friday, and returned defenseman Brady Skjei to their AHL affiliate. Hellberg, who is 8-8-2 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .908 save percentage with Hartford, will back up Henrik Lundqvist.

Goalie Antti Raanta was injured in the first period of a 5-2 loss at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, forcing Lundqvist to finish the game. Vigneault said that Raanta is day-to-day with a head injury.

Defenseman Kevin Klein (oblique) will miss his ninth straight game.

The Jets will have forwards Matt Halischuk and Joel Armia in their lineup after recalling them from Manitoba on Thursday. Each player has three goals in the AHL. Halischuk and Armia will play on the fourth line with center Andrew Copp, and forward Anthony Peluso will be a healthy scratch.

Halischuk is familiar with Winnipeg’s systems after playing 93 games for the team in the past two seasons. Armia will make his Jets debut. He played one game last season with the Buffalo Sabres before Winnipeg acquired him in a trade Feb. 11.

"I want them to play the game that they have been playing for [Manitoba]," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said of Halischuk and Armia.

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will make his fourth start in a row for the Jets, who have lost three of their past four games.

With the Rangers playing on back-to-back nights, the Jets will emphasize a quick start.

"We want to put in a lot of energy and skate and make it tough on them right from the get-go," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said.

Special-teams play has been a point of emphasis for the Jets. They rank 27th in the NHL on the penalty kill at 77.3 percent, and their power play is tied for 27th. They have been shorthanded a League-leading 119 times and have allowed 27 power-play goals, most in the NHL.

Although Maurice said Halischuk, who has NHL penalty-killing experience, likely would not join the Winnipeg penalty kill immediately, Halischuk “very potentially” could play on the penalty kill before long.

The Winnipeg power play is in a 3-for-24 slump as well.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Emerson Etem

Marc Staal - Ryan McDonagh

Keith Yandle - Dan Boyle

Chris Summers - Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist

Magnus Hellberg

Injured: Dan Girardi (knee), Kevin Klein (oblique), Antti Raanta (undisclosed)

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Drew Stafford

Chris Thorburn - Alexander Burmistrov - Nikolaj Ehlers

Matt Halischuk - Andrew Copp - Joel Armia

Jacob Trouba - Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Ondrej Pavelec (knee)

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma

Status report: Thorburn will pass Ilya Kovalchuk for first place in Winnipeg/Atlanta Thrashers history by playing his 595th game.

Who’s hot: Moore has a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists). …The Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello line has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in the past four games.

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