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Emerson Etem still a work in progress

New York Rangers forward Emerson Etem takes a

New York Rangers forward Emerson Etem takes a breather during training camp in Greenburgh, N.Y. on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Credit: Ray Stubblebine

MONTREAL - In his brief time as a Ranger, Southern California native Emerson Etem has been exploring Manhattan.

Not necessarily the usual locales for an NHL player, though.

Last week, he told Newsday that one of the next places he wants to visit is The Guggenheim, the iconic spiraled art museum on the Upper East Side. The current exhibit includes the work of abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky.

After all, the 23-year-old, who likes street art and paints using oil-based markers, already has strolled through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, checking out Jackson Pollock's work. He'd been at the Museum of Modern Art on a road trip with his former team, the Anaheim Ducks, last season.

"I'd like to have some type of exhibit and sell some [of his work] and donate them to charities,'' said Etem, who made his Rangers debut on the fourth line Thursday night at Bell Centre.

"Never did it in Los Angeles. The art scene is more in Santa Monica. It's different than in New York."

And Etem, who played roller hockey while growing up in Long Beach, California, is discovering differences on the ice as well while navigating a learning curve.

Etem went coast-to-coast when the Rangers acquired the winger from the Ducks at the NHL Draft in late June in a surprising swap of Carl Hagelin and draft picks. He hoped to fill Hagelin's role on the third line, but that hasn't materialized.

Coach Alain Vigneault has been pleased with his practices and attention to video. "He is a young player that our pro scouts said a lot of good things about, thought that he had a lot of upside," Vigneault said Wednesday.

Drafted 29th overall in 2010, Etem had 10 points in 45 games and added three goals in 12 playoff games with the Ducks last season. But he didn't expect to be traded and struggled in four preseason games in the transition to a new coaching staff, new teammates and a new system.

Heading into Thursday night's game, Etem said he wanted to "win the 50-50 puck battles" and create some waves on offense against the Canadiens.

Part of a rowing family -- his mother, Patricia, was on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, his brother was with the national team, and his father and sister rowed in college -- Etem has speed, size (6-1, 212 pounds) and a good shot and wasn't just treading lightly in the professional waters Thursday night.

Etem had 15 goals and 31 points in 112 NHL regular-season games, averaging 12:07 on ice per game. In 23 playoff games with Anaheim, he went 6-2-8. In 2011-12 with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League, he scored 61 goals in 65 games.

"He has a history of scoring and can shoot the puck," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said in June. "He has a physical aspect to his game and is pretty strong and fit. He is a guy that we liked going back to his draft and followed him."

"Even though this is Emerson's first game," Vigneault said, "he's got good upsides and a chance to show it tonight."

To be sure, a solid game from Etem would give him some confidence.

But the Rangers really need some production from two top- six players who were goal-less through four games: Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.


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