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Rangers Look to Improve Home Record on Homestand

Plus update on Hayes and expected lines from practice

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Head coach Alain Vigneault preaches there's no home way to play and no road way to play.

But through 51 games this season, New York has struggled to establish itself at Madison Square Garden, especially as of late when the Blueshirts have dropped five of their last six games dating back to the start of 2017.

Overall, the Rangers are 14-11-1 at The Garden, which is tied for the second-fewest wins at home of any Eastern Conference team currently sitting in a playoff spot.

"We're aware of our home record," Vigneault said Saturday after practice. "Since I've been here, I feel that we've been really good at home. We're going through a small little stretch right now that's a little bit more challenging for us."

While the record leads something to be desired, Vigneault and his players said overall, they're pleased with the way they've played in most of the games despite not coming out with two points. 

"In all the games, we've had some pushes, we've had some stretches where we've played real well," Vigneault said. "It's just a matter of putting everything together and getting a timely goal and a timely save. If we do do that, then I'm very confident we're going to be in good shape."

The problem, according to J.T. Miller, has been stretches in games where the team gives up chances that more often than not seem to wind up in the back of the net.

"The last couple games we've played at The Garden, I don't think we've played bad games," Miller told NYRangers.com. "We've had those lapses where it goes south for 5, 10, 15 minutes. I thought we've played better than the other team for the majority of the games. I think we just have to put together a 60 minute game and the start is really important."

The positive is that New York has been the winningest team on the road this season with an 18-7-0 record away from The Garden. As Miller said, teams want to be successful no matter where the game is being played.

"You want to play the same way no matter who you're playing, no matter where you're playing," Miller said. "I don't know why we happen to be losing and giving up more goals at home, but we've definitely played well on the road, so we have to get better at playing well at home. Your building is supposed to be hard to come in and play there. We've got to get back to that. We're worrying about tomorrow. It starts with a good first period tomorrow."

New York opens a four-game homestand Sunday afternoon against Calgary that continues through next Saturday. Three of the four teams entered Saturday in playoff position.

As the old mantra goes, Vigneault and his team are taking it one at a time.

"We need to take it one game, one period at a time," Vigneault said. "The focus has to be tomorrow [against] Calgary. I saw them play last night. They played a real strong game, real uptempo. D's joining the rush, so it's going to be a real good challenge for us."

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Forward Kevin Hayes took part in the first half of Saturday's practice as he continues to nurse a lower-body injury that's sidelined him for the last four games.

"I would say he's very, very close to coming back," Vigneault said of Hayes, who skated earlier for 45 minutes with the team's skills coach. 

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Henrik Lundqvist will make his eighth straight start - and 14th straight appearance - against the Flames. Vigneault said Antti Raanta - who missed last game after he and his wife gave birth to their first child - would most likely get a game in this week. 

Saturday's lines remained the same from Thursday's matchup in Buffalo.

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Michael Grabner - J.T. Miller - Jesper Fast
Matt Puempel - Oscar Lindberg - Pavel Buchnevich

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Nick Holden
Brady Skjei - Kevin Klein

Extras:
Brandon Pirri
Adam Clendening

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