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Stepan "Probable" for Habs on Tuesday Night

Plus Buchnevich on Facing Ovechkin in the NHL

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Derek Stepan missed practice on Monday and head coach Alain Vigneault said the center was "probable" for Tuesday meeting with the Montreal Canadiens at The Garden.

"He hurt his hip a little bit yesterday during the game so we kept him off this morning," Vigneault said of Stepan. "He should skate tomorrow morning and I think right now should be all right."

If Stepan can play, Vigneault said he'd most likely use the same lineup as Sunday's 2-1 win over the Capitals. If he cannot, Vigneault will make adjustments.

Just one line - the Mika Zibanejad trio - remained intact from Sunday's game at Monday's practice. Vigneault moved J.T. Miller to Stepan's spot between Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey, while sliding Jesper Fast on right wing with Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner. Lastly, Brandon Pirri was inserted onto the fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Pavel Buchnevich.

The defense was unchanged.

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Sunday's game against the Capitals was the first time Buchnevich faced off against Alex Ovechkin in the NHL.

The 21-year-old Russian said growing up in Cherepovets, he was unable to watch much of Ovechkin's play in the NHL due to the games often beginning early in the morning.

"The whole country is asleep," Buchnevich told NYRangers.com of the often 4 am start times. "We'd only get the scores."

While Sunday was the first North American meeting between Buchnevich and Ovechkin, Buchnevich did recall facing No. 8 during his first season in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Ovechkin and his Washington teammate Nicklas Backstrom both signed with Dynamo Moscow during the 2012 NHL lockout, and Buchnevich can still recall their meeting in the KHL.
 
"My team was leading 3-0 after the first period," Buchnevich said. "In the second period, him and Backstrom … we lost 5-3. Backstrom had one score and three assists I think. Maybe four assists. Ovechkin scored two. Me, 17, and I play against him - oh my god."

Vigneault praised the younger winger for a strong bounce back game after he was a healthy scratch Thursday in Brooklyn, and said ups and downs are par for the course with any rookie, especially one adjusting to so much change as Buchnevich has.

"It was a better game for him," Vigneault said of Buchnevich. "He's such a young player. Anyone that watches the game, he's got a tremendous amount of skill and he sees the ice well. He's just got to get more experience, get a little stronger and continue to make those plays and be more effective in the one-on-ones."

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While the Rangers' power play has generated just one goal over the last six games, Vigneault said he saw a lot to like about yesterday's chances, especially on the Zibanejad goal that was disallowed.

"We moved the puck better last night, Vigneault said. "We were hungrier to get to loose pucks. I thought we were way more effective on our power play yesterday. At the end of the day, there was two on one side and one on the other, so it was more of a five-on-five game. 

"It is an important thing, though, Vigneault added. "When we scored there you could feel the momentum and you could feel we had worked real well on both those power plays. Unfortunately, the goal was disallowed."

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