GREENBURGH, N.Y. - With Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal placed on injured reserve and forwards Todd White and Tim Kennedy clearing waivers, the Rangers will open the season in Buffalo Saturday with a maximum 23 players, including two rookies, Derek Stepan and Michael Sauer.

How long the roster will remain stable is another story.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The team continues to look for a lefthanded defenseman, and if Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray, who was assigned to the AHL, becomes available on re-entry waivers, the Rangers could make a claim. And when Drury (broken finger) returns, possibly for the home opener against Toronto Oct. 15, a forward will need to be jettisoned.

For now, the lines appear set for the opener, with eight new forwards compared to last year's lineup.

Erik Christensen, a waiver claim last season, will center former King Alex Frolov and leading scorer Marian Gaborik. Artem Anisimov will be between Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan; all three are returnees. Stepan, 20, will center Sean Avery and veteran Ruslan Fedotenko, who made the team with an impressive tryout. Stepan, who won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award as the best rookie in camp, had three goals and two assists in the exhibition games. Brian Boyle will center Brandon Prust and former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard. White and Kennedy are spares.

On defense, the top four are intact - Mark Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto and Michal Rozsival. Coach John Tortorella said Wednesday that his third pair for Saturday would come from Matt Gilroy, Steve Eminger and Sauer.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

With only five games in 13 days to start the season, No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will get the starts, said Tortorella, who prefers that backup Martin Biron play later in the month. "You don't want to go too far the other way and not let Hank get into a groove," Tortorella said.