AV lauds improved play of Hayes — ‘Hopefully it will continue’

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Alain Vigneault wanted more from Kevin Hayes.

The past two games, he’s received it.

“He’s been going to the tougher areas, that’s how he scored his goal [against Washington],” Vigneault told NHL.com ahead of tonight’s game against the Bruins.

“He’s made a couple nice plays with the puck. He’s protected it better. I sense a better battle level when he has the puck and when he doesn’t have it, which is good to see. Hopefully it will continue.”

Hayes had been a healthy scratch the previous two games, with Vigneault saying that the 23-year-old forward had “great tools” but needed to “find a way to put it all together.”

The past two games, the Rangers have also been playing better as a team. They smoked Dallas, 6-2, on Tuesday, then fought back from a 2-0 deficit against the Capitals Saturday, eventually falling 4-3 in overtime.

“This was taking a step forward as a team,” Vigneault told reporters afterwards. “We battled back from a two-goal deficit against one of the best defensive teams in the league, one of the goaltenders that had been hard on a lot of teams. We were real close to getting it done.”

On top of all that, the Blueshirts will get winger Chris Kreider back tonight at MSG. He’s missed the last two games with a hand injury. Oscar Lindberg will be a healthy scratch.