Rangers, new coach Alain Vigneault to face John Tortorella and Canucks

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault looks up at the

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault looks up at the scoreboard during the third period of a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils. (Sept. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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VANCOUVER - Nine players were assigned to Hartford Wednesday as the Rangers' roster was trimmed to 30. There still will be difficult choices to make between now and the opener (Oct. 3) next week in Phoenix.

But first there's some preseason hype to deal with. Three TV networks are televising Thursday night's game between the Canucks and Rangers as Alain Vigneault, the winningest coach in Canucks history, returns to face his former team, which hired former Rangers coach John Tortorella, who is Vancouver's coach.

Neither club skated Wednesday -- the Rangers arrived from Edmonton and the Canucks from San Jose. So the media, angling to determine whether players want to prove something to their former bench bosses, was kept at bay.

After the Oilers game, Vigneault, who was fired by the Canucks and hired by the Rangers after Tortorella, whose approach wore thin with some players and management and was axed in May, said he was looking forward to saying "thanks" to those connected to his past.

"When I got let go, I didn't get a chance to say thank you to the people I'd been working with for seven years because I wasn't in Van at the time," Vigneault said. "I did come back a little later, but right now, it's hockey time and all those people I've been working with for the past seven years are there and I'm going to take the time and the opportunity to thank them. It was a great seven years and I really enjoyed it, and now it's time to get it done with the Rangers."

He isn't sure of the reception he will receive at Rogers Arena, but many observers expect it will be warm: "I don't know . . . but that building's got great memories for me, the fans are outstanding and I'm definitely going to thank them also, and the whole staff I worked with."

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Tortorella doesn't return to Madison Square Garden until the games count in the standings, on Nov. 30, and the Blueshirts are back here on April 1.

Asked if he were paying attention to the Canucks, Vigneault said: "To tell you the truth, I'm more focused on getting to know my players and getting to know the East. We didn't get a chance to play against the East last year . . . As much as I hope Vancouver has a tremendous amount of success, except against us, I'm real focused on the Rangers and getting to know the East."

Notes & quotes: Nine defensemen remain, with Justin Falk, Stu Bickel and Conor Allen battling for one or two spots. The competition for three or four forward slots appears to be down to youngsters Jesper Fast, J. T. Miller, Marek Hrivik, Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Mashinter, and veterans Arron Asham and Darroll Powe . . . Danny Kristo, obtained from Montreal in a trade for Christian Thomas, was re-assigned, along with Andrew Yogan, Michael Kantor, Micheal Haley, Dylan McIlrath, Arron Johnson, Danny Syvret, Tommy Hughes and goalie Cam Talbot. Carl Hagelin, rehabbing from off-season surgery on his left shoulder, was sent back to New York, a move that was planned, the team said. Ryan Callahan, who underwent the same procedure, remained here . . . Contract negotiations continued with holdout Derek Stepan.

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