Derick Brassard
Rangers-Lightning Preview
Derick Brassard

Rangers-Lightning Preview

Published Dec. 30, 2015 12:17 a.m. ET

Alain Vigneault is trying to shake the New York Rangers out of their funk, so he's shuffling the lines. And right now, there's no room for the struggling Kevin Hayes.

With Hayes a healthy scratch for the first time this season, the Rangers attempt to snap their longest road losing streak in almost seven years Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

New York (20-13-4) is mired in a 4-10-2 stretch after falling 5-3 at Nashville on Monday. That extended the Rangers' skid outside Madison Square Garden to eight games (0-6-2) for the first time since going 0-7-2 from Jan. 18-Feb. 25, 2009.

Though Vigneault is looking for a spark with his switches, the most notable move is scratching Hayes, who hasn't scored in 16 games. He has just six goals after netting 17 as a rookie last season.


"I think Kevin has had an extra-long leash, especially considering (Derek Stepan) was out for quite some time, but there's just nothing going on," Vigneault told the team's official website. "At the end of the day we're at the point now where we have to make some decisions in the best interest of the team.

"In Kevin's case we made it all clear about our expectations for him and what we thought he could do, and they were very high. Obviously he has not lived up to that. I know what we are seeing now is not good enough."

That could be said of the rest of the Rangers, too. The new-look lines are expected to have Rick Nash drop down from the first to the second with Stepan and Jesper Fast. J.T. Miller replaces him on the top line, joining Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, while Chris Kreider moves to the third line with rookie Oscar Lindberg and Emerson Etem.

Vigneault may opt to go with Henrik Lundqvist, but he's 2-4-0 with a 4.48 goals-against average over his last seven games and has been pulled in three of his last six starts. He was lifted midway through the third period Monday after giving up five goals on 35 shots.

"Tonight was nothing about Henrik," Vigneault said. "They were teeing it up from the ladies' tee. At 5-1, I thought it was time to give him a break. He gave us a chance. As a team, we need to respond better."

Lundqvist has a 3.65 GAA while losing five straight regular-season meetings with the Lightning. He made 26 stops in a 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Nov. 19 after compiling a 3.03 GAA in the Rangers' seven-game series loss to the Lightning in last season's Eastern Conference final.

Tampa Bay (18-15-4) is having its own problems, alternating wins and losses over its last eight home games. The Lightning seemed on their way to breaking that trend Monday, scoring twice in a span of 21 seconds in the third period before giving up a goal 32 seconds later and losing 4-3 in a shootout to Montreal.

"We found a way to get the lead in the third, and we have to close it out," said captain Steven Stamkos, who was pointless after scoring five goals with one assist over the previous four games.

Stamkos has 31 points in 30 career meetings with the Rangers, including the playoffs. However, he doesn't have a point in three straight after scoring a goal in each of the previous four, adding an assist in three of them.

Nikita Kucherov had eight points against New York in the playoffs but failed to get any last month.


Derick Brassard
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