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At the Rink: Sharks at Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Goalie Antti Raanta is expected to make his debut for the New York Rangers on Monday against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, TVA Sports). Raanta has been the backup to Henrik Lundqvist for the first six games of the season.

The Rangers acquired Raanta in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on June 27.

The Rangers have lost three straight games (0-2-1), including a 2-1 overtime defeat against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said starting Raanta was planned for this game and he didn't consider changing things just because of the losing streak.

Lundqvist is expected to start Thursday when the Rangers play at home against the Arizona Coyotes.

"I told the goaltenders at the beginning of [last week]," Vigneault said. "I told Antti to get ready for San Jose."

Vigneault said the decision to start Raanta on Monday stems from a plan he put into place with Lundqvist and goalie coach Benoit Allaire during training camp about the best way to get Lundqvist at his best early in the season.

It is working. Lundqvist has a 2.16 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in six games. Vigneault said after the game Sunday that Lundqvist is the only Rangers player at the top of his game.

The Rangers have scored two goals in the past three games. Vigneault referenced problems the defensemen have had exiting the zone cleanly on breakouts.

"We've been a little bit off as far as getting in sync together," Vigneault said. "This whole group knows that it could play better and we're working at it. This is a very accountable, very experienced group that is going to get it together."

In 19 NHL games at home, Raanta is 14-0-3 with three shutouts, a 1.59 GAA and .942 save percentage. The relevance of that stat, however, is fair to question considering his previous home games came with the Blackhawks at United Center.

"We're fully confident in him," Rangers center Derick Brassard said. "He's been working hard in practices and it's going to give a good break to [Lundqvist] to have four or five days off before the next game. But we're really confident with Antti in net and we want to play well in front of him."

The rest of the Rangers' lineup will be the same as it was Sunday.

Sharks center Ben Smith will not play Monday. Smith was hit in the ear by a shot in the Sharks' 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Smith has "an ugly gash" on his ear that required stitches, which is why he's out of the lineup.

San Jose recalled center Bryan Lerg from the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League on Monday. The Sharks made room for Lerg on the roster by putting center Logan Couture on injured reserve. Couture broke his right fibula above the ankle Oct. 15 and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

Lerg will play in Smith's place on the fourth line. He is the captain of the Barracuda and has two goals in three games. DeBoer said Lerg, 29, made an impression on him during training camp.

"I loved him. I loved his energy," DeBoer said. "He reminded me of a guy I had in New Jersey, [Stephen] Gionta. Real versatile, plays with a lot of heart, plays the right way and can do a lot of different things on the ice. I'm a fan."

Here are the projected lineups:


Nikolay Goldobin - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward

Matt Nieto - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels

Barclay Goodrow - Bryan Lerg - Mike Brown

Brenden Dillon - Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Dylan DeMelo - Matt Tennyson

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Logan Couture (leg), Joonas Donskoi (lower body), Paul Martin (lower body), Ben Smith (ear)

Scratched: None


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Viktor Stalberg - Dominic Moore - Jarret Stoll

Ryan McDonagh - Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Antti Raanta

Henrik Lundqvist

Injured: None

Scratched: Dylan McIlrath, Tanner Glass, Emerson Etem

Status report: Martin will miss his second consecutive game for the Sharks. He was injured during the game Friday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. DeBoer said Martin is considered day-to-day and he's feeling better but not quite ready to play. … Jones will be back in net for the Sharks after serving as the backup to Stalock on Saturday. Jones has allowed two goals on 110 shots in four games this season. He is 4-0-0 with a 0.49 GAA and .982 save percentage.

Who's hot: Pavelski and Thornton each have five points in five games. Thornton had two assists in the loss to the Islanders on Saturday. … Ward has four points in his past four games. … Stepan has three goals in six games, including a goal Sunday against the Devils. … Lindberg had his first NHL assist on Stepan's goal Sunday, giving him a team-high five points.


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