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Kreider to Play; Will Play with Zibanejad, Zuccarello

Vigneault On Four Scoring Lines

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Chris Kreider on Tuesday again declared himself good to go for tonight's matchup with the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden.

"Good. Healthy. Excited," Kreider said when asked how he was feeling a day after practicing with the team. "Just looking forward to trying to contribute any way I can."

After missing four games with neck spasms, Kreider is slated to play with Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello. Kreider said he isn't expecting any limits in his first game in 10 days.

"It's the little things I can control," Kreider said. "I can definitely jump right back in and focus on doing right away. That's something that I think I can bring to the table immediately. That north-south game and try and get in on the forecheck and try and disrupt their breakouts."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said he felt Kreider was playing the best hockey of his career prior to the injury, and is hopeful No. 20 will return to form quickly.

"Tonight with Kreids, obviously anybody that saw him at the beginning of the year, he was playing some of his best hockey since he's been with the Rangers," Vigneault said. "[A] power forward, skating hard and going to the tough areas. Hopefully he'll do that for us tonight."

During training camp, Vigneault stated his desire to have three scoring lines and one defensive-minded trio rounding out his four forward groups.

With Kreider's impending return, the Rangers' fourth-line is expected to be Brandon Pirri between Pavel Buchnevich and Jesper Fast. While Fast is known as a defensively-reliable forward, Pirri and Buchnevich are more offensive in their approach.

That change is unexpected, but it's one that Vigneault is embracing, especially with the early results his team has had through nine games.

"Right now I look at our four lines and I see balance," Vigneault stated. "I see a good skill level. I see on every line I see guys that can make plays and use their speed."

Vigneault, now in his fourth season with the Rangers, said this is the first time he's had a forward makeup like this and it's something he thinks can push the forwards in a positive way.

"This is the first time since I've been here that we've had a [fourth] line with that makeup," Vigneault said. "I think balance right now is the word for me that comes to mind. Figure out the different matchups that you can have. We'll see how it unfolds during the game. Tonight against a real strong team is a good time to see what we have." 

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