With the preseason winding down and rosters down to brass tacks (Rangers have 25 players, Flyers 26), we'll see lineups featuring mostly regulars at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Backup goalie Antti Raanta is expected to play the entire game for the Blueshirts, and judging by the morning skate, these will be the lines and defensive pairings:
Mats Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-J.T. Miller
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Jesper Fast-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg
Jarret Stoll-Dom Moore-Emerson Etem
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle-Dylan McIlrath
Oscar Lindberg, Tanner Glass, Jayson Megna, Kevin Klein, Raphael Diaz.
The Flyers held their morning skate in New Jersey. Flyers beat writer Sam Carchidi tweeted Steve Mason will play the full game, and Michael Del Zotto, Chris Porter, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Colin McDonald and Evgeny Medvedev will sit.
Note the line tinkering, with Nash and Miller swapping places in the top six, Hayes back at center and Stoll testing the waters at wing. He said he's played very little on the flank, with the last time about five years ago.
As for Etem, Vigneault said Monday that he takes a chance in environment when it comes to evaluating the 23 year-old.
"New system, new teammates, getting used to the new environment - all that for me goes into the equation," Vigneault said. "In our discussions Arnie [associate head coach Scott Arniel] and [assistant coach] Darryl [Williams] have spent some time showing Emerson some video and how we play and the style that we're trying to establish. We can see, and they can see ... that he's picking it up. And I thought the last game that he played was his best one yet. He's taking strides. It's our job to work with him and develop him."
And here's Vigneault on the possibility of carrying eight defensemen: "I think money-wise we could make it work but we'd be right up against the cap, and it would probably hurt us down the road," he said. "So I would say unless after these two games we don't come to a unanimous decision inside our locker room as far as what we think, we'll probably be down to seven [defensemen] and 13 [forwards]."
So, a trade of McIlrath or Diaz seems all but assured, because they might not survive waivers.
Looks like the same power-play units as in Boston: Yandle-Brassard-Stepan-Kreider-Nash, and Boyle-McDonagh-Zuccarello-Hayes-Miller. Vigneault said the one change he has made with the man-advantage units is that they now practice on game days.
There is no pre-ordained overtime Monday ... Brian Gibbons, Ryan Bourque, Chris Summers and Luke Adam all cleared waivers at noon and can report to Hartford ... The final preseason game is Wednesday at MSG against the Bruins.