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Rangers can rest and reload with four games in next two weeks

Emerson Etem of the New York Rangers takes

Emerson Etem of the New York Rangers takes the puck in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 22, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images

This week is providing a rare pre-Halloween break for the Rangers, one of just six teams who already have played 10 games. The rest have played eight or nine and will be catching up.

"We've got four games in the next 14 days, so it kind of gives us a chance to reload and work on some things in practice," associate coach Scott Arniel said Tuesday. "It'll give us a chance to get some rest as well. It doesn't happen very often, so you know you'll pay for it down the road."

Wednesday was dedicated to off-ice workouts and meetings before a full practice Thursday to prepare for a visit from Toronto (1-5-2) on Friday.

The coaching staff is encouraged by the 6-2-2 start and is aware of the toll a long playoff run can take.

"Last year, we were real concerned about going to the [Stanley Cup] Final and having a hangover and having a tough start," Arniel said. "More than anything, the last two years as a coaching staff and the group we have here, it has been slow starts for people, and we've really had to push [later]. That first year, on Dec. 27, we had a really big [push] at that time. Last year was a little earlier. We're trying to not stress our team so much by having to work so hard the last two-thirds of the year. That was more our coaching mentality this time: Let's try to get everybody up and running right away."

Power play

With three power-play goals in the last four games, the Rangers have an opportunity to add to that run against the Maple Leafs, who rank 28th in the NHL on the penalty kill.

"Our breakouts have to be better, have to be crisper," said Arniel. "But our shot mentality's been a lot better and our puck movement."

Defenseman Matt Hunwick, who played 55 games for the Rangers last season before leaving as a free agent, is second on the Leafs in time on ice, averaging 22:16 per game, including time on the penalty kill.

Etem likely to get another look

If Viktor Stalberg (day-to-day, head injury) doesn't practice Thursday, Emerson Etem will dress for his second consecutive game on Friday. The former Ducks winger had his first point as a Ranger, an assist against Calgary on Sunday, while skating on the fourth line.

"Vik's been playing great," Etem said. "You hate to see him go out with a head injury, but it's an opportunity for me and I thought I played well. The first couple shifts were just getting back into it, making smart simple plays, and then I just built from that. I thought my D-zone was particularly better than the [Oct. 15] Montreal game."

"Tough situation having not played in such a long time [10 days], but he really used his size well, battling in the corners, coming off the walls with pucks, had two great chances in front," said Arniel. "He needs to be like a [Chris] Kreider and needs to be like a [Rick] Nash -- get to those painted areas. He did a good job of that. When he had the puck, we saw his speed a few times. It's also, as coaches, getting comfortable with him, and he's also getting comfortable with his teammates and how we play. I know he was really nervous coming in here [to camp] and really, I think, every week his game has improved."

Said Etem: "When I'm not playing I'm watching the games [to see] what are some guys doing, just in case I'm on a line with them, or what the other team's doing, in case I get thrown in against them. I'm doing whatever I can to get better and I think it helped me out a lot, sitting and analyzing the games and making sure I stayed fresh and conditioned. I think it all kind of came together in that last game."

Jarret Stoll, who centered the fourth line, said he thought Etem used his speed and size effectively. Stoll, who agreed that Etem is a little "cerebral", said: "Yeah, I told him not to think too much. Just go out and play."

Blue Notes

Center Derek Stepan and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed a son, their first child, on Tuesday ... Henrik Lundqvist, expected to start Friday, has faced the most shots (272) and made the most saves (256) in the league, and is fifth in save percentage (.941) as of Wednesday ... Rookie Oscar Lindberg is tied for first with six other players in even-strength goals with five ... Kevin Hayes is tied with 14 others with two game-winning goals.


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