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Kreider "Excited to Play Hockey Again"

Winger is Expected to Return to Lineup Tuesday

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Rangers forward Chris Kreider is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday against St. Louis after missing four games witih neck spasms.

"Better. Excited to play hockey again," Kreider said when asked how he was feeling after taking part in his first team practice in nearly a week. 

Kreider, who had three goals and four assists for seven points in five games before being injured, said the spasms began the morning after the team's game in Washington on Oct. 22. 

"Just kind of came on suddenly," the winger said. "Just one of those things I guess." He said since then, he's received treatment and needed to rest it. He added that he probably could have come back sooner but the team's schedule limited practice time.

Kreider said the team's strong play in his absence - a 3-1 record over the four games - has lessened the blow a bit. Now, he's hoping to return to the lineup and pick up where he left off.

"You want to play obviously," he said. "But it's very encouraging to see how well the team is doing. Clicking on a lot of different levels, playing the way we want to play. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. Try to come in and now screw that up."

Video: Kreider on returning to the lineup

Alain Vigneault said he'll slot Kreider back onto a line with Mika Zibanejad, whom have had success together since training camp. But the duo will have a different linemate, as Mats Zuccarello - who had been playing with Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich - will remain on that line while Buchnevich slides down to a line with Brandon Pirri and Jesper Fast.

"In theory, you don't lose your spot because of an injury, but in Kreid's case, the chemistry he had with Mika - and at that time we were playing Buchy with them - it was a really effective line," Vigneault said Monday. "Now that Zuccy has been playing with Mika a little bit, I think it's just a natural step to put Kreids back there. It gives us balance throughout our forward lines."

Zibanejad, who has two goals and six assists for eight points in nine games thus far, said he's hoping for more of the same from No. 20 upon his return.

"Obviously you're hoping for that chemistry to come back now, and have him on that side now with Zucc as well, it's been progressing," Zibanejad said of his newly formed line. "It's coming along. We're making plays and creating chances with Zucc and it's good to see. It's somethign you want to see. Always progressing and always building upon. I think we've been doing a good job with that and we just have to keep going."

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With Kreider returning to the lineup, Oscar Lindberg is expected to be the Rangers' healthy scratch for Tuesday's matchup with the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden.

Vigneault also said he's expecting to use defenseman Adam Clendening more over the course of the month, as the team is about to begin a stretch of 15 games in 30 days.

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