(SportsNetwork.com) - A highly anticipated battle between teams that swapped head coaches during the offseason is on tap Saturday, as John Tortorella and the Vancouver Canucks visit Alain Vigneault's New York Rangers for a clash at Madison Square Garden.
One of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason began with Tortorella and Vigneault being fired last May by the Rangers and Canucks, respectively. Before the end of June both coaches landed on their feet by taking each other's former job, with Vigneault landing in the Big Apple and Tortorella moving from the East Coast to the West to lead the Canucks.
Tortorella is the one making a homecoming on Saturday, as he returns to New York for the first time since being fired. He led the Rangers to the playoffs in four of five seasons, but was only able to get the club past the second round once, when the Blueshirts lost to New Jersey in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
"Quite honestly, we've beaten this thing up. We're going there (and) it's another game on the schedule. It's a very important game for us to try and gain some traction," said Tortorella.
"We're going in there to coach, be with the team, try to win a hockey team and get the hell out of there."
Vigneault, who will have to wait until April 1 for his return to Vancouver, led the Canucks to 30-or-more wins in six straight seasons before the lockout- shortened campaign helped ended that streak. He also got Vancouver to within one win of the franchise's first Stanley Cup title in the spring of 2011, only to lose a home Game 7 to the Bruins.
Vigneault was fired after the Canucks lost for the second straight time in the opening round during last spring's playoffs.
Under Tortorella this season, the Canucks are off to a 13-9-5 start, while the Rangers are 13-13-0 with Vigneault behind the bench.
The Canucks enter today's tilt in New York coming off a win, but Thursday's 5-2 rout in Ottawa was just the second victory in nine outings for Tortorella's club.
Daniel Sedin's 300th career NHL goal highlighted a second-period barrage on Thursday. The Canucks had found scoring to be a difficult task of late, but they pumped home four in the second against the Senators, including three in a 3:35 span.
Sedin, David Booth, Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli each had a goal and one assist for Vancouver, which had totaled two goals or less in seven of its previous eight games. Not surprisingly, the Canucks posted only one win during that stretch.
"We wanted to create more offense and we did," Garrison said. "It was nice to get one. We responded in the second after a poor start."
Roberto Luongo made 37 saves in Vancouver's sixth straight win over the Senators. Luongo is 7-11-1 with a tie and a 2.73 goals against average in 21 career outings against the Rangers.
New York has taken the last two encounters in this series, but the Blueshirts and Canucks haven't faced each other since Oct. 18, 2011, when Tortorella led the Rangers to a 4-0 victory in Vancouver.
Despite losing the two most recent matchups, however, the Canucks have still claimed nine of the past 12 meetings in this series. Vancouver also has won four of six and six of the last nine encounters in NYC.
Vigneault and the Rangers will try to rebound from their second loss in three games when they take the ice today. The Blueshirts visited Boston on Friday afternoon and were handed a 3-2 regulation loss despite carrying a 2-1 edge into the third period.
Boston's Patrice Bergeron tied the game at 2-2 when he scored just 1:35 into the third period and Zdeno Chara provided the winning tally for the hosts with 8:55 remaining in regulation.
Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash scored for the Rangers, who had won three of four heading into Friday. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 25 shots in defeat.
"We got exactly what we deserved today because we gave a "B" effort," said Vigneault.
Beginning with Saturday's test, the Rangers are playing two straight and 11 of their next 12 games on home ice. New York is 4-5-0 as the host this season and 9-8-0 on the road.