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Return of the King: Coach Alain Vigneaut, New York Rangers face Canucks in Vancouver
Alain Vigneault returns to Vancouver tonight as the general of the New York Rangers, his first regular season game against the Canucks in Rogers Arena since he was fired last summer.
(Vigneault and the Rangers visited Vancouver in the preseason, when John Tortorella's Canucks got the better of the blueshirts, 5-0.)
"This is night and day from when we came in during training camp," Vigneault said (NHL.com). "It was a very emotional time for me, it was my first time back. Now it's all about winning games. We're in a real tough conference. We're in a tough fight to get into the playoffs, and we need every point we can get so my focus right now is to get our team ready to play against Vancouver."
The Rangers are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and sit in fifth place with 88 points, two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Canucks, meanwhile, have 79 points through 76 games under head coach John Tortorella – who was just coaching the Rangers last season, and took them to Round 2 of the playoffs – and are all but eliminated from the postseason.
Tortorella, who became famous in New York for his brushes with the Manhattan media (often, reporter Larry Brooks) and his outspoken style, is facing his old team for the second time this season.
(The Rangers beat the Canucks 5-2 in November at Madison Square Garden.)
"I've been gone long enough. I don't do too much reminiscing right now," he said. "I'm just trying to spend my time trying to keep this team playing. We don't spend a lot of time on the other team."
Notables missing from Vancouver's lineup tonight are captain Henrik Sedin and defenceman Chris Tanev, in addition to winger Mike Santorelli.
Forwards Zack Kassian (four-game point streak) and Brad Richardson (four points in five games) are the only clicking Canucks, both playing on a line with the suddenly resurgent David Booth, who also has four points in his last five games.
Henrik leads the Canucks in scoring this season, with 46 points through 65 games.
The Rangers have four players producing over that total, with Brad Richards (49 points), Derek Stepan (53), Mats Zuccarello (53), and Martin St. Louis (64 points).
Canucks TV: Third Line Success (Kassian-Richardson-Booth)