Evgeny Grachev wore No. 91 as a youngster in Russia. In the 85-year history of the Rangers, only Markus Naslund wore that number in his lone season in New York. Right now, that's where the comparisons end.
Naslund retired after scoring 395 goals in 1,117 NHL games, most of them during his 12 years in Vancouver. The career arc of Grachev, 20, is just beginning.
In his NHL debut Friday night, the 6-4 Grachev, who was selected in the third round of the 2008 draft, started as the fourth-line right wing with Todd White and Erik Christensen, and coach John Tortorella's expectations were simple.
Grachev had only nine shifts and played 6:55 with no shots and four hits in the Rangers' 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
"We want to see his strength on the puck," Tortorella said. "That's something we talked about in camp, using his body to protect it. He hasn't scored a bunch [12 goals last season in Hartford and one this season], and for him to get some ice time at the NHL level, he can't hurt you defensively with turnovers, especially with his size. We want him to understand how he has to play along the wall."
Grachev was hurriedly summoned to Washington Oct. 8, 2009, when Ryan Callahan was questionable with a back injury. He arrived at Verizon Center just before the game, but Callahan played. Grachev, disappointed, was returned to the AHL.
"It's a little different this time," Grachev said. "I got the call around 5 on Thursday, picked up my Halloween costume [Avatar] and came here. Then the coach told me this morning I was in."