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Hayes, Staal Expected Back for Rangers Against Ducks

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said forward Kevin Hayes is a "game-time decision" to return to the lineup tonight against the Anaheim Ducks after missing the last five games with a lower-body injury.

Vigneault said that while he could not officially rule Hayes back following the team's morning skate, he said Hayes "should be good to go" after everything turned out positive this morning.

Forward Matt Puempel will come out of the lineup if Hayes is able to play. Hayes would center a line with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner, while Jesper Fast would slide to the fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Pavel Buchnevich.

The team's top two lines of Mika Zibanejad between Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, and Derek Stepan flanking Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey, will remain in tact.

Hayes' return to the lineup would give Vigneault more balance on his four lines, allowing him to deploy his trios with more regularity.

"With Kevin right now I think what we have is real good balance on all our lines," Vigneault said. "We're capable of putting [Fast] on the fourth line and he's been one of our - I believe - most consistent players. If you want to play a high-tempo, fast game, you have to roll your lines quickly. You've got to keep your shifts short and you've got to play with pace and that's what we're going to try and do."

Defenseman Marc Staal missed Monday's practice with the flu, but will play Tuesday night.

"[I] Still wasn't feeling great yesterday after playing [Sunday]," Staal said. "I took [Monday] to recover feel a lot better this morning."

The blueliner felt sick prior to Sunday's matchup with the Flames, but was fighting the sickness throughout, and needed an IV.

"It hit me a couple of hours before [Sunday's game]," Staal said. "I thought I could get through it. Obviously didn't feel great during the game. I probably should have just gone home but I thought before during warmups that I had enough to go. I ended up getting through it and we got a big win. I feel better now and I'm excited about tonight."

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start against the Ducks. He is 5-4-1 with a 2.46 GAA and a .907 SV% in 10 games against Anaheim, but has won his last two appearances against the team.

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