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Rangers face stiff test on West Coast

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist warms up

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist warms up on the ice against the Montreal Canadiens before action in an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Although the Rangers are 6-2-3 against Western Conference teams this season, the trio of games that begin here Wednesday night is especially formidable.

The Ducks (26-9-6) are the NHL's top team, with 58 points, the Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champions and the Sharks are always capable of filling the net with pucks.

Of course, the Rangers are on their biggest roll of the season, having won 10 of 11 and 14 of 18.

"I've got to have the big picture, but I'm real anxious to see how we're going to respond here," coach Alain Vigneault said after practice at Honda Center on Tuesday. "As a group, our game's getting better and it's a perfect time for us to show it."

Henrik Lundqvist, who has won nine of his last 10 starts, will face the Ducks, Vigneault said, and backup Cam Talbot will be in net in the second game of the back-to-back Thursday night against the Kings, who ousted the Rangers in five games in the Cup Final.

The only other lineup change, Vigneault said, will be on defense, with John Moore replacing Matt Hunwick on the third pair with Kevin Klein.

Lundqvist is 3-4-1 with a 2.71 GAA and a .902 save percentage against the Ducks, but has allowed two goals or fewer in three of his last four starts against them.

Talbot (3-3-1, 2.02 GAA and a .928 save percentage) has never played against the Kings. He was last in net Dec. 21 when he made 18 saves in shutting out Carolina. It is expected that Lundqvist will be back against the Sharks on Saturday.

But goaltending wasn't what Vigneault was discussing. The most striking aspect of the recent run, he said, was how the Rangers were improving in puck possession in all three zones.

"When we defend well, play well when we don't have the puck, five guys together, we're capable of getting the puck back quickly, we usually get the puck back quicker and counter," he said. "It's no coincidence, in my mind. Marc's [Staal] been playing better, Mac [Ryan McDonagh] and Dan Boyle come back [from injury]."

Duclair to juniors. Anthony Duclair, 19, was reassigned to his former team, the Quebec Remparts. He had one goal in 18 games with the Rangers.

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