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Erixon's week could end with NHL debut in Sweden

by Dan Rosen
STOCKHOLM -- Imagine Tim Erixon's emotions the last six days.

Last Saturday, Erixon, a 20-year-old Swede, was told by New York Rangers coach John Tortorella that he wasn't ready to play in the NHL, that he needed time to learn the North American game and was going to start the season in the American Hockey League.

A day later, Erixon was on a flight to Hartford to join the Connecticut Whale.

Tim Erixon could make his NHL debut with the Rangers in his home country Sweden. (Getty Images)
Now he's back in Sweden after making his third trans-Atlantic trip in 10 days, and he could make his NHL debut for the Rangers in their regular season-opener Friday against the Los Angeles Kings (1 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN) here at Ericsson Globe Arena, the most notable hockey rink in his home country.

"It feels surreal," said Erixon, who was born in Port Chester, N.Y., but grew up in Skelleftea, which is in the northwest part of Sweden, about an eight-hour drive from Stockholm. "It'll be a great feeling."

Erixon, whose father, Jan, played for the Rangers from 1983-93, was sent to Connecticut over the weekend because the Rangers were hopeful Marc Staal would be able to join them here. Instead, Erixon was recalled Wednesday when the club put Staal (post-concussion symptoms) on injured reserve.

Neither Erixon nor Tortorella would confirm that the 20-year-old Swede will play Friday, but Erixon was skating with Steve Eminger in Thursday's practice, an indication that he likely will be on the third pair.

"I feel ready," Erixon said after Thursday's practice. "I felt better and better during the preseason. I tried to keep in mind how they wanted me to work in my own end and tried to build off of that."

At the time of his demotion, Tortorella basically said Erixon wasn't ready to play in the NHL, that he needed time to mature his defensive game and learn how to play on the smaller ice in North America before making the jump to playing on an NHL blue line.

Tortorella still feels that way, but the reality is Erixon still may be one of the club's best six defensemen.

"We don't live in a perfect world … so is this a perfect scenario?" Tortorella asked rhetorically. "No, but we saw him improving as the camp went on so we decided to bring him back."

In an ideal world, Tortorella didn't want to see Erixon in a Rangers uniform until January at the earliest. He wanted Erixon to follow the path Ryan McDonagh took last season, when he spent half the season in the minors before making an impact in New York.

Erixon still might get the opportunity to learn in Hartford when the Rangers return home, but it's possible he'll get two very strong lessons this weekend from the Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

Two days ago, the opportunity didn't exist.

"It's great to be back," Erixon said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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