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Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien receives a four-game ban for cross-check to J.T. Miller

Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien gets checked by New

Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien gets checked by New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist keeps his eyes on the puck during the second period of an NHL game Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Credit: AP / John Woods

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The NHL suspended the Jets' Dustin Byfuglien for four games without pay Thursday for a cross-check to the neck of the Rangers' J.T. Miller, who was lying on the ice when struck from behind Tuesday.

The NHL's Department of Player Safety levied the suspension after a phone hearing with Byfuglien on Thursday.

"That's not for me or the Rangers to comment," said coach Alain Vigneault, who fumed about the incident after Tuesday's game. "We've moved on past that. It was an unfortunate incident . . . "

Vigneault had called the assault "violent, deliberate . . . could have broken his neck. One of the most vicious cross-checks I've seen this year."

The NHL deemed Miller "defenseless" on the play.

Miller, whose nose was cut from his head striking the ice, went to the bench to be checked out but returned to the game. A day later, he said his neck still was sore and stiff.

Under the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement and based on his average annual salary, Byfuglien will forfeit $111,827.96. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Lundqvist improving

Henrik Lundqvist is finding his groove. After missing two months, he has been in the net for two consecutive wins this week, allowing only four goals.

"I feel better and better," he said after Thursday night's 3-2 victory over the Wild. "I'm making better reads, feeling more comfortable. Obviously, it's even more fun when you win and you're helping the team to get the points, so I'll take it day by day, but really, the last two games, I feel like I'm getting closer to the way I want to play."

On Thomas Vanek's tying goal at 5:53 of the third period in a scramble, Lundqvist dropped his goal stick. He said, "I tried to get up and find the puck and I step on the stick, turn around, and it's an open net. What can I say? A couple bad bounces there and some bad luck."

For the next five games, Lundqvist said, "it's about working on our game, my game. I want to win and I want to build my confidence that way."

Nash gets 41st

Rick Nash seems to be out of his slump. His 41st goal was his second in four games after he went eight straight without one. With Justin Fontaine in the box for high-sticking at 14:15 of the first, Nash, from the bottom of the right circle, caught Devan Dubnyk leaning to the other side and banked a wrister off him 22 seconds into the man-advantage for a 2-0 lead.

Stanley Cup favorite?

A well-known oddsmaker made the Rangers the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, a concept that Vigneault quickly dismissed before Thursday night's game against the Wild.

"We are? Where?" he said.

When told Las Vegas, Vigneault said: "I don't follow gambling. It's got nothing to do with what's going to happen in the future. I don't know what they base it on, but we're a team, like the 16 teams that are going to get in, [who] are going to have a chance."

Blue notes

Ryan McDonagh, in his return home for the first time as Rangers captain, had two assists. Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin also registered assists . . . Dom Moore's opening goal was his first since March 2 . . . In his first game after missing eight with a right knee sprain, Martin St. Louis had one shot on goal and one shot blocked in 17:52 . . . Right wing James Sheppard, a former first-round pick of the Wild, was a healthy scratch for the fourth time since he was acquired March 1 from San Jose. He has one goal in 11 games. He had played in nine straight.


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