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Third line of Hayes, Lindberg and Stalberg producing for Rangers

Kevin Hayes #13 of the New York Rangers

Kevin Hayes #13 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first-period goal against the Washington Capitals with teammates Viktor Stalberg #25 and Oscar Lindberg #24 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

DENVER -- In today's NHL, goaltenders are bigger and more athletic, defenders are quick and mobile, and skating skills are far more valued than the disappearing pugilist.

As a result, goals are harder to come by than ever before.

More often than not, the top two lines aren't enough to carry an NHL team to playoff heights. The big guns have their off nights. Or off weeks.

Consider: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has only a goal and five points in 11 games. Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf have not scored a goal.

The Ducks have 14 goals in 11 games (2-7-2). Pittsburgh (7-4-0, just 20 goals allowed) and Philadelphia (4-6-2) each had only scored 24 goals entering play Wednesday night.

The Rangers' Rick Nash and Chris Kreider have combined to score two goals as the season hits the first week of November.

Undervalued? Third lines. Carl Hagelin, traded to the Ducks, had 17 goals in that spot last season.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has repeatedly said that the top nine forwards must contribute, and the fourth line for most teams is a more all-around, checking line, with penalty-killers.

"You see less and less teams having that enforcer-type player as in the past," Vigneault said. "I think the league has gone way more to skill and speed, and I think it's better. Whereas before, on the fourth line, you might have had a real energy enforcer-type guy, right now you're seeing skill and speed that can play at both ends of the rink."

The Rangers' deterrent, veteran Tanner Glass, was waived last month and is playing in AHL Hartford.

As the Rangers (8-2-2) embarked Wednesday on a two-game western swing to visit the Avalanche on Friday and the Coyotes on Saturday, the hope is that third- and fourth- liners can enhance the offense.

On Tuesday, when the top six forwards managed only two shots against Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, the Rangers' third line, centered by second-year pro Kevin Hayes, and two Swedes, rookie Oscar Lindberg and veteran Viktor Stalberg, totaled two goals, four points and 10 shots on goal, out of 21 overall.

"I thought that line was our best line at both ends of the rink," Vigneault said. "When they were on the ice, I was calm. I knew they were going to make the right plays with the puck, and they did, and that's why they were successful. Every night, you need somebody stepping to the plate, helping you get it done. They did a real good job leading one another and they spent some good, quality time getting great looks."

Lindberg, 24, has six goals, the most of any rookie in the league, and three assists. "I wasn't expecting it [this start) coming in, but I'm happy with the way I'm playing and the way the team has been playing," said Lindberg, who seems to be in the right spots around the net. He scored in the first period after Holtby couldn't control Hayes' shot.

"There are going to be rebounds," Lindberg said. "You just have to try and find the open space."

Hayes, more comfortable at center than right wing, where Vigneault had given him a look early in the season, has points in four of the last five games. Stalberg, with a goal and three assists, finishes checks and adds a spark on most shifts.

"It's huge that you don't rely on one line or a few guys," Henrik Lundqvist said. "It gives confidence to the group knowing that there are more guys who can do it."

New York Sports