Despite a 3-1 victory their last time out, Thursday night in Buffalo, head coach Alain Vigneault is making a pair of changes to the Rangers' lineup when the team hosts the New Jersey Devils tonight at Madison Square Garden. Forward Benoit Pouliot will be scratched for the first time this season, replaced by J.T. Miller who was recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday, and Justin Falk will take the place of Michael Del Zotto on defense.
Pouliot, who earlier in the season was warned by Vigneault that "you only get so many kicks at the can", has just two goals and five points in 29 games played this season after registering 20 points (8-12-20) in 34 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning a year ago. Pouliot has not scored a goal since October 29th--a span of 18 games. In that stretch Pouliot only recorded a pair of assists.
"Ben has been given a real fair opportunity and hasn't played to ours and his expectation," explained Vigneault after the team's morning skate at the MSG Training Center. "Tonight we are giving that opportunity to somebody else."
That somebody else is 20 year-old forward J.T. Miller, who returns to the Blueshirts after spending ten days in the minors. Miller has one goal and two points in 15 games with the Rangers this season, and five goals and six points in six games with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
"We just felt it was time to give him another look considering how some of our other guys are playing," stated the head coach. "In our estimation it was the right time to give him another look."
Miller will skate on an intriguing line alongside Derick Brassard and Carl Hagelin, giving him a bit more of an offensive line to play on after finishing up his last few games on the fourth line before being set back to Hartford.
"This is a great opportunity for me," Miller told BlueshirtsUnited.com. "Brass is such a skilled player, and Hags has that great speed. My job will be to get in first on the forecheck, be physical, use my size and open up space for those two. I'm really excited and happy about the chance."
Vigneault did not elaborate on his decision to dress Falk and sit Del Zotto. Saturday's game will mark the seventh time this season Del Zotto is being scratched. Falk returns after sitting out Thursday's win in Buffalo. The two games prior to that, with Falk and Del Zotto both in the lineup, John Moore had been the healthy scratch.
As for Moore, he said Saturday that "it stinks" being scratched, but he had spoken with the coaches and worked on certain areas of his game which they believed needed improving. Moore logged 13:19 against the Sabres, and Vigneault was pleased with his play.
"I thought John basically played to his strengths (in Buffalo)," said the head coach. "He skated well, was very solid defensively. They had a couple shifts in our end, but he was on the right side of his check and wasn't responsible for any chances against. So hopefully he'll bring that tonight."
Derek Dorsett remains out of the lineup with a sore wrist.