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Rangers regain momentum after rough road trip

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The Rangers celebrate a much-needed win over the Bruins on Wednesday night at the Garden.Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers celebrate a much-needed win over the Bruins on Wednesday night at the Garden.

Perhaps Saturday’s lethargic performance in San Jose is just the wake-up call the Rangers needed.

After blowing a two-goal, third-period lead against the Kings before losing in overtime and a loss to the Sharks which brought frustration over the lack of requisite effort, the Rangers came back for some home cookin’ and bounced back with big wins over playoff-bound teams Florida and Boston at MSG.

“It was a good game for us, a good test,” Lundqvist said after Wednesday’s 5-2 win against the Bruins, “and this was exactly the response we needed coming back from out West from a pretty tough trip.”

Each game featured a more inspired Rangers group that has put itself back in a good position to claim home-ice advantage in the first round. The Rangers, whose 92 points have them in second in the Metropolitan Division ahead of Pittsburgh, are 25-8-3 at the Garden vs. 17-16-5 on the road. The Blueshirts were off Thursday but will practice Friday ahead of a crucial weekend back-to-back. They’ll play at Montreal on Saturday before returning home for a huge Sunday affair against the Penguins, which will have big implications on playoff seeding.

With only eight games remaining, this weekend will be particularly pivotal for Alain Vigneault in his search for the right combinations among his top three lines. The only line which failed to impress on Wednesday was a new trio consisting of Chris Kreider on Eric Staal’s left with Kevin Hayes on the right.

Henrik Lundqvist and the Blueshirts are in battle for second place in the Metro division.Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Henrik Lundqvist and the Blueshirts are in battle for second place in the Metro division.

Hayes, who’s a better center but shifted to wing after the Rangers acquired Staal, played over rookie Oscar Lindberg, who was a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game. Earlier this year, Vigneault publicly scolded Hayes for a lack of effort and benched him for two games, yet Hayes’ defensive deficiency on the wing hasn’t yet resulted in him coming out for the hard-working Lindberg.

“Hayes is a more natural right winger and I was thinking of the look with Eric feeding him on the right side and Kreids on the left side,” Vigneault said. “They had some looks (Wednesday,) so I’m not displeased by that line.”

Staal’s best stretch as a Ranger came when playing between Lindberg and Stalberg, who was moved to a fourth line five games ago to form an effective unit with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass.

Vigneault knows Hayes is better-suited at center but also prefers Staal in the middle, though Vigneault apparently feels more comfortable with Hayes at right wing than Lindberg. Staal has just three points in 12 games as a Ranger, which Vigneault said on Tuesday was “my fault” because of line-shuffling.

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