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Rangers Looking Forward to Challenge from Leafs

Plus news and notes from morning skate

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The Rangers know they won't be eased back into action after five days away with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town.

New York is expecting a fast paced game against Toronto, who possess a handful of young, fast and skilled players headlined by last year's No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews.

"Obviously breaks are good for the body. We want to get back at it and it'll be a good test against Toronto who is playing well," defenseman Nick Holden said Friday after the team's morning skate at The Garden. "[They have a] good young forward group with lots of speed. We have to make sure we have a good start and get on them early."

Matthews, 2015 fourth overall pick Mitch Marner, and 2014 eighth overall pick William Nylander occupy three of Toronto's top four slots in scoring this season, combining for 93 points, including Matthews' team-leading 35.

According to Henrik Lundqvist, success for young players has as much to do with skill as it does with confidence, and he says Toronto is playing with lots of it.

"A lot of these young players coming into the League right now, it's a lot of about confidence and also the skill level coming in that makes them challenging," he said. "You just need to play them hard and be smart with and without the puck. They're a good team. They're a confident team. They've been playing real well the last month or so. We look forward to that challenge."

While Friday marks the first time Lundqvist is facing Nylander in the NHL, the two have a history against each other back on the streets when Nylander was in New York during his father Michael's tenure with the Rangers.

"A lot," Lundqvist when asked if he saw William around often, "but it was mostly street hockey. I remember I spent a lot of time with Michael 11, 12 years ago. Little Nylander was out on the street playing with his brother. I joined them a couple times. He wasn't very big but you could tell the guys had talent. You could really see it, the way they were moving the puck. 

"I'm happy for him," Lundqvist continued. "Being able to follow in his dad's footsteps here. It makes you realize you're getting older and you've been here for a while when things like this happen, but I'm really happy for him."

While he will be returning to the lineup tonight after a two-month absence with a back injury, head coach Alain Vigneault said Pavel Buchnevich would not play tomorrow night in Montreal or in any back-to-back situation for the time being.

"At this point after playing the three games he did … we called him up," Vigneault. "We won't play him for a while in back-to-back situations, so he's going to play tonight but he won't play tomorrow. The doctors want to be on the prudent side there."

While the team is being cautious, Vigneault did say he was optimistic the issue is behind Buchnevich.

"With everything he's gone through," Vigneault said, "with the daily work he's put in with our conditioning staff and our medical staff it should not be an issue anymore."  


Forward Jesper Fast, who has been battling the flu this week and was held out of practice Thursday, appears to be a game-time decision. Vigneault said he had not spoken with the winger after the morning skate, which Fast took part in.

If Fast can play, it appears Marek Hrivik will be the healthy scratch against Toronto.

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