As the Vancouver Canucks look to string together victories under coach John Tortorella, Alain Vigneault hopes his New York Rangers can improve their recent play at home in time to meet his former team and welcome back a familiar face to Manhattan.
After swapping coaching jobs with Vigneault during the offseason, Tortorella returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday looking to guide the Canucks to consecutive wins for the first time in a month and hand the Rangers a fourth straight home loss.
In five seasons with New York, Tortorella's defensive-minded approach produced four playoff appearances, highlighted by a trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 2012. However, the fiery coach's conduct alienated some players and many in the media, and he was fired May 29 -- four days after the Rangers were eliminated in the second round by Boston.
Vigneault is the winningest coach in Vancouver history and led the Canucks to six straight playoff appearances in his seven seasons. But after they blew a 2-0 lead to Boston in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals and lost in the first round the last two seasons, Vigneault was fired May 22.
However, his casual demeanor and offensive philosophy were enough for the Rangers to hire him June 21. Four days later, Tortorella was named coach in Vancouver.
At least publicly, Tortorella downplayed the significance of Saturday's contest.
"We've beaten this thing up," he said about facing his former team. "It's another game on the schedule. It's an important game for us to get some traction. We have enough things to worry about with our hockey team than to worry about other teams.
"I make my own bed (in New York), but some of it got carried away. I'm with a different club and this is where I want to be."
Vancouver (13-9-5) played well for most of the first month of the season but is in the midst of a 2-4-3 stretch and hasn't recorded back-to-back victories since a four-game run Oct. 22-28.
After scoring two or fewer goals in seven of eight games, the Canucks won 5-2 at Ottawa on Thursday. Daniel Sedin registered his 300th goal, and he has seven points in the last four games after going six straight without one.
Sedin and the Canucks already saw Vigneault in a 5-0 home victory over the Rangers in the preseason, and he doesn't feel facing his longtime coach for the first time in a meaningful game will matter much once the teams take the ice.
"We're playing the New York Rangers," said Sedin, who has two goals and two assists in five games at MSG. "I know our former coach is over there, but once you get into the game you're not going to think too much about it.
"He was with us for seven years and he meant a lot to this franchise, so it's going to be fun seeing him again but once the game gets going we want the two points, and so does he."
New York (13-13-0) is coming off a 3-2-0 road trip. The Rangers, however, have dropped three straight one-goal games at MSG and return after blowing a lead by allowing two third-period goals in Friday's 3-2 loss at Boston.
Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh scored for the Rangers, who have been held to two or fewer goals in seven of the last nine contests. They've totaled three in the last three home games.
New York's Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup for Tortorella in Tampa Bay and fell out of favor with the coach during last season's playoffs, has recorded only one of his team-leading seven goals at home.
Though the clubs haven't met since Oct. 18, 2011, the Rangers have outscored the Canucks 5-0 while winning the last two meetings. New York last posted three straight shutouts of the same opponent against Pittsburgh during the 1969-70 season.