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Rangers Shuffle Lines Ahead of Matchup with Washington

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Coach Alain Vigneault shuffled his lines for the third period of Saturday's loss to the Maple Leafs, and the moves will continue tonight following the three-day Christmas break.

All four of his forward trios were changed, as well as two of his defensive pairs as the bench boss looks for consistency following a pair of winless games before the recess.

"I felt coming back here - there were a couple modifications on the lines, but a lot of guys have played together before and have played well," he said following the team's morning skate. "In our last game we had some good moments but I felt like we needed to be a little more consistent. I think this is - after a three-day break where we haven't practiced, we'll catch everyone's attention. It'll be good communication between new linemates and new D pairs and should be good to go."

Mika Zibanejad will center Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, while David Desharnais slots between Chris Kreider on the left and Jimmy Vesey on the right. Kevin Hayes moves to a line with Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller (which began the season as a unit), and Boo Nieves anchors the fourth line with Paul Carey on the left and Pavel Buchnevich at right.

Marc Staal shifted to the right side next to Brady Skjei, while Brendan Smith goes to his natural left side opposite Kevin Shattenkirk. The Ryan McDonagh- Nick Holden unit is the lone holdover.

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Ondrej Pavelec will get the start for the Blueshirts tonight. Vigneault said the backup netminder was told sometime last week to expect to play the first game after the break

"We told Pavs last week that he was playing the first game back, so he's known for quite some time," Vigneault said. "He knew that he had to do whatever he needed to do to come here today ready to play."

The move was also made with Henrik Lundqvist in mind, with Vigneault saying this way the netminder - who had started all but twice since the beginning of November - could get away from the game during the Christmas break and come back focused on Detroit for Friday.

"We felt that after talking it through with [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] and I that this was probably the best thing for Hank," he said. "Not having to worry about during the three days off to worry about making sure he was ready for the first game back. This way he could practice today, practice tomorrow and be ready for Detroit. Just made sense as far as recovery for Hank."

Lundqvist said he was expecting to not play tonight, and instead is using this extended time off as a way to prepare for two more games this month and a busy January.

"It gives me an opportunity to practice today and go a little extra hard in the morning skate and tomorrow and prepare for next game," he said. "I know we have a lot of big games coming up. I'll prepare for the next one."

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Ryan McDonagh will play in his 500th NHL game tonight, becoming the 13th defenseman and 39th player overall to appear in 500 games as a Blueshirt.

"It's very special. Credit to my teammates helping me play along the way here, all the way from starting my first year. The coaching staff and especially the training staff for helping me stay healthy. It'll be fun."

With the holidays and the Winter Classic on the schedule, McDonagh will have more loved ones in attendance for the milestone.

"I've got my parents here, not specifically for it, but it works out that way," he said. "They're here for the Winter Classic and stuff, but it'll be fun to share that too with them."

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