As the Rangers approach the 20-game mark, coach Alain Vigneault said the club's record is "about where I expected it to be. Before the season, I thought I'd give it 20 games to figure out what I had. There were some growing pains; we're trying to get better; we are getting better."

Vigneault repeatedly has said that he came in with a clean slate, erasing what little he knew about the club last season, in order to eyeball and evaluate things for himself. He coached in Vancouver, with no Eastern schedule in the lockout-shortened season. But he has confirmed two things: "I knew [Henrik] Lundqvist was an extraordinary competitor. I knew his preparation was beyond reproach," he said Tuesday. "And I was told that [Ryan] Callahan was an emotional presence."

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Del Zotto gets praise

Michael Del Zotto, whose regular defensive lapses have been troubling, was on ice an hour before the optional practice, skating on his own. Vigneault broke up the third defensive pair -- Del Zotto and John Moore -- during Sunday's 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers, but didn't rip Del Zotto before Tuesday night's game against the Devils.

"I've seen him work extremely hard on the ice, off the ice," Vigneault said. "There's a lot there to work with."

Blue notes

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Center Dominic Moore, who missed his seventh straight game with a strained oblique muscle, hopes to play on Saturday night in Montreal. "It's sore, but I'm ready to go," he said. That would mean someone, possibly Brandon Mashinter, would sit . . . Defenseman Justin Falk was a healthy scratch for the 15th time . . . Taylor Pyatt, concussed on a Fedor Tyutin hit in Columbus, missed his second game and is out indefinitely . . . Tickets to the games at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and Devils (Jan. 26) and Rangers and Islanders (Jan. 29) go on sale on Ticketmaster sites at 10 a.m. on Nov. 21.