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Morning Skate: Zibanejad Returns, AV on Facing Former Teammates

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

TAMPA, FL. -- Mika Zibanejad will return to the Rangers lineup after missing Tuesday's game against Winnipeg with an illness.

"Mika is healthy and he's going back in the middle between [Pavel Buchnevich] and [Chris Kreider]," Vigneault said after the team's morning skate.

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Thursday marks the first time the Rangers will see ex-teammates J.T. Miller and Dan Girardi as members of the Lightning. Miller, along with the injured Ryan McDonagh, was dealt to Tampa last week, while Girardi was bought out of the remainder of his contract last summer.

Vigneault said while he hopes his former players have success in their new homes, he hopes it doesn't come against him and the Rangers.

"When you've been - for the number of years we'd been with J.T. and Mac and Dan, who is over there now, you wish those guys the best. You hope they have a tough night when they play against you," he said with a laugh. "Obviously we wish them the best. They were good players for us, good people and we hope they do well."

Vladislav Namestnkikov, who was in the deal with Tampa, will face his former club as well tonight.

"I'm excited," he said. "It'll be fun to play against former teammates. I'm excited to be back."

"It's been good. The guys are great here," Namestnikov added. "We got a couple wins on the road so I think it's been good so far."

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Kevin Shattenkirk traveled with the team to Florida and skated on Thursday, rotating in with Marc Staal and Neal Pionk. Vigneault, though, did not have an update on his condition, though he said today marked Shattenkirk's first "hard skate" and that he's "in the beginning process of getting back into shape."

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Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec continues to skate on his own in New York and an imminent return to the lineup is not expected.

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Rangers lines at the morning skate:

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Ryan Spooner - Kevin Hayes - Jesper fast
Jimmy Vesey - Vladislav Namestnikov - Mats Zuccarello
Cody McLeod - David Desharnais - Paul Carey

Brady Skjei - John Gilmour
Marc Staal - Neal Pionk
Rob O'Gara - Tony DeAngelo

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