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Rangers hope to pick up momentum on the road

Rick Nash of the New York Rangers skates

Rick Nash of the New York Rangers skates during training camp At MSG Training Center in Greenburgh on Sept. 19, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - They were like two trains arriving at Rogers Arena Saturday from different directions.

The Rangers were beginning a four-city road trip, well rested after having played only three games in two weeks. The Canucks returned home on Wed- nesday from an exhausting seven-game, 14-day excursion.

They also have taken diverse paths in the regular season. Under new coach Willie Desjardins, the Canucks were 18-9-2 before Saturday night's game. Former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who last season guided the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in his first campaign in New York, has not been as successful with the Rangers at 12-10-4 -- although Mats Zuccarello scored two goals and Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and Marc Staal added one each as the Rangers took a 5-0 lead over the Canucks after two periods Saturday night.

"I would say we need points more than they do," said Vigneault, who regularly has noted that the Rangers are not in playoff position.

That's in contrast to Desjardins, who replaced John Tortorella. "I never look at the standings," Desjardins said. "It doesn't matter where we're at right now. What matters is which way we're going, and the end of the year, where we're at. Are we trending up or are we trending down?"

The Canucks were trending down, with three straight losses on the road and goalie Ryan Miller dropping three of his last four.

The consensus is that the first home game after a long road trip is troublesome for teams. Said Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle, who played in San Jose for six seasons: "We had some long trips, but never 14 days. We'd be on the road for five or six, come home for a few days and be back out again. It can affect you."

But the Canucks had several days to practice here and were happy to be back. "We know how big of a game it is. We have to be ready,'' Desjardins said.

Vigneault -- who said his emotions finally have settled now that it's his third time returning to coach against Vancouver -- wasn't buying into the suggestion that the Canucks would be less than challenging.

"I remember us [the Rangers] coming off a long road trip back in New York and finding a way to win against Vancouver," he said.

The Rangers had won four straight against the Canucks before Saturday night, including a sweep of the 2013-14 season series -- a 5-2 win in Tortorella's return to the Garden on Nov. 30 and a 3-1 win here on April 1.

In that November game, Chris Kreider had a hat trick, but his fortunes have turned since. The left wing has only four goals this season and was dropped to the fourth line Saturday. Miller, whose goal Saturday night gave him three goals and an assist in five games since his recall from Hartford, is in Kreider's spot on the line with top center Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis.

The hottest Rangers are Rick Nash, with 18 goals and a nine-game point streak, and Derick Brassard and Kevin Hayes, with points in the last five games. Nash assisted on two of the five goals through two periods.

The Rangers, who visit Edmonton on Sunday, Calgary on Tuesday and Carolina on Saturday, want to channel enough of an "us-against-them" mentality to collect some points in December. "We want to win now," Nash said, "and not wait to become a streaky team later on."

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