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Scenes from morning skate: Zadorov returns, Lotto Line remains as Canucks face Rangers in clash of top teams at MSG

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
5 months ago
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You want a heavyweight showdown? You’ll get one tonight, as the Vancouver Canucks (25-11-3) roll into Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers (26-10-2). There are only three teams ahead of the Canucks in the National Hockey League standings and the Rangers are one of them — and only by a single point.
The Canucks will be out for a measure of revenge after the Rangers scored three power play goals in a wildly entertaining 4-3 overtime victory in Vancouver on October 28th at Rogers Arena. 

What we saw

After a one-game absence due to a minor injury, Nikita Zadorov returns to the Canucks line-up replacing Noah Juulsen who will sit out for the first time since November 11th in Toronto. Zadorov will be paired with fellow left-hander Ian Cole who will slide to the right side for the first time this season.
After a four-goal, four assist night in New Jersey on Saturday, the Lotto Line of Elias Pettersson, JT Miller and Brock Boeser will stay intact as the Canucks go with the same 12 forwards they used in their 6-4 victory over the Devils. Boeser thought he had scored his team-leading 25th goal of season early on Saturday only to see it overturned on a coach’s challenge. As a result, Boeser has gone five without a goal for just the second time this season.
Quinn Hughes had three assists on Saturday and is sitting on 49 points for the season. His next point will give the Canucks captain the fourth 50-point season of his career.
Fresh off the 100th victory of his NHL career, Thatcher Demko makes his fourth straight start in goal. He is 4-1-1 in last six starts, but has allowed 20 goals in those games including four on Saturday night. His save percentage over that run is .891.
The Canucks are playing their 40th game of the season. They were 13-6-1 through their first 20 games and are 12-5-2 since then. 
Conor Garland has scored in back to back games for the first time this season. After netting just two goals in his first 33 games, the veteran winger has three goals in his last six. Carson Soucy logged 20:07 in his return to the line-up on Saturday after missing 23 games with a foot injury. He picked up an assist and shared the team lead with four blocked shots.
As a team the Canucks have drawn just one power play in each of the last three games. They scored on Tuesday against Ottawa but failed to connect in St. Louis and New Jersey.
The Rangers return home after falling 4-3 in a shootout in Montreal on Saturday. They fell behind 3-0 before rallying with goals from Vincent Trocheck, Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox. New York set a season-high with 48 shots on goal. Jonathan Quick made 27 saves in the New York net. Rangers All Star representative Igor Shesterkin had the night off on Saturday, but will get the start tonight. He is 16-8 on the season with a 2.75 GAA and .908 save percentage. Shesterkin has won six of his last seven starts. 
New York has alternated wins and losses in six games since Christmas. The Rangers are 4-4 in their last eight games and 8-6-1 in their last 15 since an 18-4-1 start.
Panarin, who has 8+4=12 on a seven game point streak, sits tied for third in overall NHL scoring with 25+30=55 this season. He leads the Rangers in goals, assists and points. Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck are tied for second in team scoring with 38 points apiece. Chris Krieder (20) gives the Rangers a pair of 20-goal scorers. Kreider also leads the team with nine power play goals. Speaking of which, The Rangers lead the NHL with a power play that is humming at 29.7% and it operates at 31.0% on home ice where the Blueshirts are 13-5 on the season.
New York has been rolling despite missing key youngsters Filip Chytil (28 games – upper body) and Kaapo Kakko (18 games – lower body) for some time now. Kakko took part in the team’s morning skate, but in a non-contact jersey.
The Rangers are 7-1 against Pacific Division opponents this season. The Blueshirts are 4-0 in games decided in overtime including their victory over the Canucks.
Tonight’s referees: Brandon Schrader & Kyle Rehman

What we heard

Rick Tocchet on limiting Rangers chances tonight: “If you make coverage mistakes, their scoring rate is higher than a lot of other teams. We have to protect the guts of the ice. That’s something we’ve kind of slipped a bit the last two or three weeks. A lot of goals in the slot area. Agains this team, we have to protect the middle.”
Tocchet on idea of rotating defencemen in and out of line-up if everyone healthy: “We have to look at that option and have guys buy into that. That’s the stage we’re at. It’s about being a team and we’ll deal with all the other stuff.”
Tyler Myers on battle between two good teams tonight: “Coming into MSG and playing against a really tough team that’s doing well also, we’re going to have to make sure we stay patient. We may not have as many looks as we did last game but if we stick to the game plan and stick to our details, things seem to fall into place for us quite often.”

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