Etem to make Rangers debut versus Canadiens

Emerson Etem will make his Rangers debut tonight at Montreal. AP Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Emerson Etem will make his Rangers debut tonight at Montreal. AP Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Emerson Etem will finally get a opportunity to play for his new team when the Rangers visit the Canadiens tonight. Acquired from Anaheim as part of the Carl Hagelin deal, the 23-year old Long Beach, California native has totaled 15 goals and 16 assists in 112 NHL games.

Following a disappointing training camp, Etem found himself the odd man out. He was a healthy scratch the first four games. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is set to play Etem with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast, who returns to the lineup after sitting out the last two games.

To make room for them, Tanner Glass and Jarret Stoll will sit. Vigneault wasn’t pleased with his fourth line in Tuesday’s defeat to Winnipeg. They were pinned in their zone often. So, the third-year coach decided to make a switch. It should be interesting to see how Etem responds in what will be a chaotic atmosphere. After going 4-0-0 on a road trip, the Canadiens return for their home opener at Bell Centre.

The Habs have played excellent hockey. New captain Max Pacioretty paces them with four goals and six points. Alex Galchenyuk and defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov each have four points. Montreal has gotten contributions from Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Torrey Mitchell. New acquisitions Alex Semin (2 assists) and Tomas Fleischmann (1 goal) are off to slow starts.

As usual, it starts in net with Carey Price, who Henrik Lundqvist called the best goalie in the NHL. Price won 44 games with a 1.96 goals-against-average, .933 save percentage and six shutouts in ’14-15 to sweep the Hart and Vezina. He’s off to a good start with a 3-0-0 record with a 1.67 GAA and .945 save percentage.

“I did start thinking about it today that we’re playing Montreal, a good team, and Carey, especially,” Lundqvist told The Record’s Andrew Gross following team practice Wednesday in Greenburgh, NY. “The way he’s playing right now, he’s probably the best goalie.”

“I think he’s very composed, very technical,” Lundqvist added. “I think about two years ago, he raised his game to another level. He was always good but now he’s taken it to another level.”

A former Vezina winner himself, the 33-year old Lundqvist isn’t too shabby. In four starts, he enters with a 3-1-0 mark with a 2.26 GAA and .933 save percentage. It’ll be his fifth straight start. Backup Antti Raanta makes his first start against the Devils Sunday in the first of a back-to-back with Lundqvist expected to return for the Sharks Monday.

Also a scratch tonight is Dylan McIlrath, who was okay in his first game. He took 21 shifts (12:20) registering two shots with a hit and blocked shot. Back in is 39-year old vet Dan Boyle, who admitted he hasn’t gotten off to a good start. He’ll pair up with Marc Staal and reclaim his spot on the power play. In three games, he has one assist.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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