In a bit of a surprise, coach Alain Vigneault has decided to scratch Dominic Moore when the Rangers host the Hurricanes tonight. In his words, he wants to take a look at Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast in their natural positions with Jarret Stoll. So, Moore will sit out for the first time this season.
Moore has been a solid performer since returning to his original team in ’13-14. Who could ever forget his series clincher from Brian Boyle in Game 6 of an emotional Eastern Conference Final against the Canadiens? The affable 35-year old veteran overcame the loss of his wife Katie to liver cancer. He sat out an entire season.
Moore, who recently remarried is someone to root for. A hard working player who fills his fourth line penalty killing checking role well. After posting 10 goals and 17 helpers last season, he has a goal in 14 contests so far. It’s been a bit of an adjustment playing with Stoll, who also is a natural center. Both have split duty on face-offs while killing penalties. Stoll sat out once. He has a goal and two assists in 13 games.
Vigneault wants to take another look at Etem. A player acquired from Anaheim as part of the Carl Hagelin trade which allowed the Rangers to move up in the second round and select Ryan Gropp. The 23-year old from Long Beach, California has just an assist in five games. He got a chance to play on the top line the past two with Rick Nash out with a bad back. Nash is good to go tonight and will play with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.
The Blueshirts need to see what they have in Etem. A former first round pick who’s only totaled 15 goals and 17 assists in 117 games with the Ducks and Rangers. At some point, he must perform to stay in the lineup. He has more skill than Fast, who’s a hard working defensive forward that kills penalties. His hustle led to his second goal on a redirect of a Dan Girardi shot in a recent 4-1 win over Arizona. Fast won’t blow anyone away offensively but is more consistent than Etem.
With Nash returning to the top line and Moore sitting out, here are the lines:
As for the blue line, it’ll be Dan Boyle paired with Keith Yandle. Boyle returned to the lineup over the weekend and had an assist with a plus-two rating. He still was shaky in his end but the veteran gets another start.
With Dylan McIlrath performing well, it’s time for the organization to tell Raphael Diaz to go play in Sweden instead of keeping a handshake agreement that would have him up this month. McIlrath has done enough to stay. He should continue to spell Boyle and maybe even Dan Girardi if he needs a blow. It’s not worth losing McIlrath, who adds size and is more well rounded this time.
Henrik Lundqvist gets the start. With eight more saves, he’ll move past Mike Richter for the most total saves in franchise history counting regular season and postseason. It would be fitting if it comes in a win. Cam Ward will oppose him.