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Report: If Rangers hire Messier, Leetch would join coaching staff

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If the Rangers decide to reach back into their history and hire Mark Messier as head coach, his staff will also harken back to the golden years.

According to a source of the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, legendary Blueshirts defenseman Brian Leetch is set to join the coaching staff should Messier get the gig.

Leetch, 45, teamed with Messier to win the last Stanley Cup in Rangers history, in 1994. The American blueliner captured the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP that year and had his No. 2 raised to the MSG rafters in 2008.

Here’s more on the coaching situation, from Brooks:

Sources from the Boston area where Brian Leetch makes his home told The Post the Hall of Fame defenseman would likely join the Rangers’ coaching staff as an assistant if Messier is hired.

The Blueshirts would need to hire a technocrat with meaningful NHL coaching experience to complement Messier and Leetch should Sather opt to go in that direction, one that would seem a far riskier one than hiring [former Canucks head coach Alain] Vigneault.

The major issue with the hires is coaching experience.

Messier doesn’t have much — he was behind the bench for Team Canada’s entries in the 2010 Spengler and Deutschland Cup — and Leetch has even less.

He’s done some TV work with MSG and, even though Brooks championed Leetch as the “perfect guy” to coach the Rangers’ PP in 2012, his only post-retirement coaching duties have been with his kids’ teams.

That said, he did express an interest in getting back into the NHL (from a 2010 interview with the New York Times):

LEETCH: At some point, I would like to get back involved in hockey. I would be interested in just about every aspect within an organization — coaching, management, player development — if the situation was right.

By that I mean, if I felt like I was working again within a team atmosphere, where our goals were the same and our beliefs in how to achieve them were similar.

It’s believed Vigneault is the front-runner for the Rangers’ job, after he reportedly “impressed” Rangers GM Glen Sather during his interview.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.