James O'Brien

New York Rangers' Brady Skjei (76) tries to get past Boston Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow during the third period of the Bruins' 4-3 shootout win in an NHL preseason hockey game in Boston on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
AP

With defensemen Staal and McIlrath out, Rangers recall Skjei

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The New York Rangers are banged up on the blueline, but they’re positioned well enough from a postseason standpoint that they can find the bright side of this situation.

To be more specific, those injuries to Marc Staal and Dylan McIlrath inspired the emergency recall of Brady Skjei, who may or may not have made progress since his last cup of coffee with the Rangers.

He hasn’t been able to score in three games with New York, last playing in February (and two December contests). Still, as a first-rounder from 2012, there’s the tantalizing proposition that Skjei could provide a boost. Perhaps even during the playoffs?

Even if Skjei ends up in a depth role, that could be a great help for the Rangers. That’s assuming that he’s made some strides this season – and that he can gain Alain Vigneault’s trust – of course.

The Rangers next play against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. We’ll see if he gets another taste of NHL action then.

Goalie nods: Lundqvist remains out, so Raanta’s in for Rangers

Antti Raanta, Henrik Lundqvist
AP
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The New York Rangers are preparing for a possible first-round preview against their hated rivals the New York Islanders, yet they’ll need to face them without Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist’s no-good, very-bad day continues to have a negative impact on the Rangers. It sounds like his neck spasms – labeled not very serious – are at least a big enough problem to leave him day-to-day.

Antti Raanta steps in his place, and he’s going to have Jaroslav Halak at the other end of the rink.

Should be an interesting test both for the Rangers and their backup goalie.

Elsewhere …

Stars at Senators: Kari Lehtonen vs. Andrew Hammond

Penguins at Devils: Matt Murray vs. Keith Kinkaid

Red Wings at Blackhawks: Petr Mrazek and Corey Crawford

Oilers at Jets: Cam Talbot vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Blues at Wild: Jake Allen vs. possibly Devan Dubnyk

The Justin Schultz experiment begins for the Penguins

Justin Schultz
AP
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With a crucial stretch coming up, the Pittsburgh Penguins will finally see the debut of offensive defenseman Justin Schultz, as the team confirmed on Sunday.

Schultz replaces Derrick Pouliot in the Penguins’ lineup. If he also slides into Pouliot’s third pairing spot, he’d be lining up with Ian Cole (who may help to serve as a safety valve in Schultz is deployed as a true weapon from the blueline).

It should be a fascinating development to watch. The Penguins are trying to restore his confidence with Sergei Gonchar taking Schultz under his wing, but some may grumble at the asking price of a third-round pick if he stumbles.

In other Penguins lineup news, Carl Hagelin is being held out of today’s game against the New Jersey Devils for “precautionary reasons.”

Hagelin’s injury likely necessitated a call-up for Conor Sheary.

Finally, the Penguins are rolling with intriguing goalie prospect Matt Murray in net today. So, yeah, plenty of new/relatively new faces to watch for Pittsburgh, a team that cannot rest on its laurels.

Tanguay made quite the impression in his Coyotes debut

Arizona Coyotes' Alex Tanguay (40) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Anthony Duclair (10) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Panthers 5-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Dave Tippett’s decision to put newcomer Alex Tanguay on the same line as veteran center Antoine Vermette and speedy youngster Anthony Duclair paid off in a big way for the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.

Tanguay, acquired from Colorado on Feb. 29, scored two goals and added an assist in his Coyotes debut. Vermette had a goal and three assists and Arizona ended a season-high seven-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Duclair added two assists as the three linemates combined for the last two goals for the Coyotes.

“I was extremely nervous. Couldn’t catch my breath out there,” Tanguay said. “I was looking forward to playing well and got a little lucky. Teammates played great, gave me the puck in great opportunities and happy we got the win.”

Shane Doan and Jordan Martinook also scored for Arizona, and Louis Domingue stopped 32 shots.

After a scoreless first period, it took the Coyotes 29 seconds to take the lead. Martinook got loose on a short-handed breakaway and beat Al Montoya to the stick side. The Coyotes scored again at 5:36 of the second period, with Tanguay taking a backhand pass from Vermette and putting the puck in the net for a 2-0 Arizona lead.

“He’s a good veteran player. He’s won before,” Tippett said of Tanguay, who is 36 and in his 17th NHL season. “He’s a very positive guy, wants to pay back some of the lessons that he’s learned over his career.”

Florida cut the lead to one on Aaron Ekblad‘s goal at 17:28 of the second period. It came with a player from each team in the penalty box for roughing.

Jussi Jokinen got the assist on Ekblad’s 13th goal of the season, giving Jokinen seven straight games with at least a point. Jokinen’s 22 road points lead the team this season.

Doan scored on a power play early in the third period after the Panthers’ Jaromir Jagr was whistled for interference. Vermette got the primary assist, and Vermette’s shot found Tanguay’s stick for a tip-in goal at 5:35 of the third to give the Coyotes an insurmountable three-goal lead.

“It’s 2-1 after the two periods, then we get to the third and we make a couple of bad plays,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.

The Coyotes added one more goal in the final minute on Vermette’s score on assists from Tanguay and Duclair.

“We had a good mix out there. We had a couple of good practices,” Vermette said. “You want to translate that into a game. (Tanguay’s) a smart guy. He’s been through a lot, a lot of experience. He won a Cup also. He’s a good passer, smart player.”

The Coyotes were strong on the penalty kill, thwarting the Panthers on five power plays. It marked the second straight game the Panthers failed to score with a man advantage after five straight games with a power-play goal.

“It’s a crucial part of the game and we are not doing it,” Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad said. “It’s not easy to score in this league and we’ve got to find ways to score, get in front of the net and jam away.”

Montoya finished with 21 saves for Florida, which has not won in regulation time in Arizona since Dec. 8, 1999.

The Panthers have lost four of their last five and dropped behind torrid Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning won their ninth straight game Saturday and have a two-point lead for first place in the Atlantic Division over Florida.

NOTES: Saturday’s game also marked the Coyotes debut of another forward, Sergei Plotnikov, who arrived in a trade with Pittsburgh earlier in the week. … Jagr played his 1,612th career game, tying the 44-year-old forward with Ray Bourque for ninth place in NHL history. … Montoya returned after missing the past two games with an upper-body injury. … Before the game, the Coyotes held a ceremony for Doan, who received a gold-plated game stick from Feb. 12, the night he became the franchise’s career points leader. … Arizona assigned F Craig Cunningham to Springfield of the AHL. Cunningham last played on Feb. 29, logging 11 minutes of ice time. … Arizona also called up G Marek Langhamer and sent G Niklas Treutle to Springfield. Treutle gave up five goals to Anaheim on March 3. Langhamer, 21, was up with the Coyotes for one game in November. … Coyotes C Max Domi was scratched due to a one-game suspension for starting a fight in the team’s previous game. C Boyd Gordon returned after missing the past 13 games due to injury.

It’s official: Jets host Oilers in Winnipeg for 2016 Heritage Classic

heritageclassiclogo
via Winnipeg Jets
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Imagine, for a moment, Connor McDavid going full speed ahead and creating all sorts of offensive magic during an outdoor game early next season.

Yes, this means that the reports are true: the Winnipeg Jets get to host their outdoor game next season and McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

Specifically, it’s the 2016 Heritage Classic, with the Jets hosting the Oilers at Investors Group Field on Oct. 23. This is the first time the league is christening an outdoor game as a Heritage Classic since 2014.

The Jets also announced that there will be an alumni game between Jets and Oilers greats, so perhaps we’ll get to see Teemu Selanne vs. Dynasty-era Oilers?

This is a nice nod to the Oilers, as well, who participated in an outdoor game before the Winter Classic and Stadium Series contests ran with the idea.

It all sounds like great fun. For more details, click here.