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Alain Vigneault overhauls Rangers' lines

New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks

New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks on against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY on Monday, Sep 21, 2015. NHL Hockey between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. Credit: Steven Ryan

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - After 40 minutes in Montreal on Thursday night, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had seen enough: a flurry of odd-man rushes by the Canadiens and only two five-on-five scoring chances from the Blueshirts.

So Vigneault, in the fifth game of the season, started tinkering with lines and defense pairs. The Rangers still lost, 3-0.

On Saturday, he overhauled the lines, the struggling top defense duo and the power play, hoping to snap a two-game losing streak in Sunday's home matinee against the Devils (0-3-1).

"It's about trying to see if we can get a little bit of momentum here," said Vigneault, who said Henrik Lundqvist will start his sixth straight game in the first of a back-to-back set (the Rangers host the Sharks on Monday night).

"We've got a couple guys who, results-wise, offensively and defensively, can be a lot better, so we're trying to see if we can get them going with different linemates. Sometimes it grabs their attention a little bit, excites them to play with somebody else."

Captain Ryan McDonagh wasn't surprised by the shake-up, which included separating him from defenseman Dan Girardi, and said the team hasn't played well for a full 60 minutes in any game.

"You can fool yourself when you find a way to win a game, but in the last two games, it comes back to bite you," he said. "We need more from everybody. [The coaches are] looking for answers. Ultimately as a player, you see changes like that happen, you know it's got to come from within, everybody stepping up and realizing what it's going to take to win a game every night . . . It's a message that we've got to raise our level of play."

Every combination changed, including the top lines. Center Derek Stepan, who has been between Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, moved up to skate between Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. Derick Brassard, formerly between Nash and Zuccarello, was moved to a line with Kreider, who, like Nash, is goal-less in five games.

Right wing Jesper Fast, who was benched for two games and then started in the bottom six Thursday, moved on to the second trio. "[Fast is] real good on the boards and retrieving pucks in the offensive zone," Vigneault said. "When we used him in a bigger role last season, he was very effective. We're hoping he complements both Brass and Kreids."

Hayes, who played center all last season, was back there on the third line, pushing Oscar Lindberg to the wing with J.T. Miller. Jarret Stoll, scratched Thursday, returns to Dom Moore's fourth line with winger Viktor Stalberg, dropped down from the third line.

On defense, Vigneault put Kevin Klein with McDonagh. Girardi dropped to the second pair with Keith Yandle. Marc Staal and Dan Boyle were the third unit. "Dan and Ryan, who have been very consistent, are having a tough time, so we split them up," Vigneault said. "It's going to take some time to figure out where the pieces go. I'm hoping to get it done quicker than I had in the past."


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