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New Lines Stick For Matchup With the Flames

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

CALGARY -- Alain Vigneault introduced new lines Thursday at practice but was quick to say he was unsure if the trios would stick. Well, they have.

All four Rangers lines will have a new look when the Blueshirts begin its four-game road trip Saturday night against the Flames in Calgary.

"I felt the last couple of games we've been a little bit off at both ends of the rink," Vigneault said after practice on Friday. "Not the same execution and crispiness to our game to get back to check and to break out and counter attack."

While all the lines were shaken up, the biggest changes is the separation of Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, who played together nearly all of the preseason and the regular season. Kreider will move to a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, while Zibanejad will flank Mats Zuccarello and Pavel Buchnevich.

"I think everybody knows the chemistry that Chris has had with Derek in the past," Vigneault said. "They played long stretches with Rick on the right side. It's a unit that already has some chemistry and they know one another."

The Zibanejad line was put together largely because of Zibanejad's chemistry with Buchnevich and Zuccarello, a trio that was successful in a small sample size earlier this season when Kreider was injured with neck spasms.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Pavel and Mika have good chemistry, and Zuccy is one of our best players," Vigneault stated. "Skill wise and compete wise, [Zuccarello] fits in with everybody and he just plays."

The team's third line will see Kevin Hayes between J.T. Miller and Jimmy Vesey, who has seen his ice time be limited Tuesday against Vancouver and last week against Edmonton in which his 10:49 was the least amount he'd played since Oct. 17 against San Jose, his third NHL game.

Vigneault, though, said Vesey has handled the reduced ice time well, and has continued to come to the rink to prepare for the next game.

"As far as I can tell he's dealt with it like a pro," Vigneault said of Vesey. "No body likes to miss a couple of shifts. We're at game 14 now and I've been pretty consistent at rolling four lines, which I think - especially this year - [is] something you need to do. It's only happened a couple of times. I don't see it as being an issue."

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Brady Skjei is expected to play on the right side of Marc Staal tomorrow night in Calgary, and Vigneault said he's intrigued to see how the two play together.

"[Skjei] played there last year in Hartford. That's one of the things last year we had them do," Vigneault said. "So far, I would have to say in the last five or six games, I've liked the way he's played. I've liked the way he's played with the puck and I just think it was probably - and we'll find out - I'm hoping him and Marc Staal will be a good combination. A veteran, stay-at-home defenesman with a young player that can skate and move the puck, so I'm hoping that's going to work."

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