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Rangers' exhibition season begins Monday night at Garden

New York Rangers defenseman Raphael Diaz (left) and

New York Rangers defenseman Raphael Diaz (left) and Marc Staal during their practice session at their training facility in Greenburgh, Sept. 20, 2015. Credit: Ray Stubblebine

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The first tangible steps toward establishing a roster begin for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday night when a lineup of backup goaltenders and numerous bubble players plays the Devils in the first of six preseason games in 10 days.

Netminders Antti Raanta and Magnus Hellberg will play in Newark and in Philadelphia on Tuesday, coach Alain Vigneault said Sunday. Henrik Lundqvist will start against the Bruins in Boston on Thursday and in two of the final three games, including the last exhibition Sept. 30 at the Garden against the Bruins.

"Benny [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] thought it might be beneficial to give Hank a little more time with technique in the initial practices rather than throw him right in," Vigneault said. With Raanta, acquired in a trade with Chicago, and Hellberg, acquired from Nashville, "it is an open battle," he said. "I think Raanta might have a little bit of an upper edge because he's got more experience [39 NHL games to one]."

On defense, Dylan McIlrath, Raphael Diaz, Chris Summers and Brady Skjei will dress, with the first two leading the race for a spot as the seventh blue-liner. Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle are the vets in the lineup, with Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi being given more time to recover from foot injuries.

Only five forwards on the roster during the playoffs will skate: Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast and Tanner Glass. The two forwards considered among the leaders to make the roster are center Oscar Lindberg, who has been paired with Fast in the practices, and winger Viktor Stalberg, signed after the Predators bought out his contract. Ryan Bourque and Marek Hrivik have played in Hartford, and Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna and Luke Adam were acquired in the offseason.

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