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Jimmy Vesey to make NHL debut for Rangers

Prized college free agent to play on top line against Islanders

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

ISLANDERS (0-0-0) at RANGERS (0-0-0)

7 p.m. ET; MSG, MSG+2, NHL.TV

NEW YORK -- Jimmy Vesey, the prized college unrestricted free agent during the summer, will make his NHL debut with the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

"I actually slept pretty well last night," said Vesey, who said he'll have roughly 10-12 family members and friends in the crowd Thursday. "I wasn't sure how much [sleep] I was going to get, but I slept well. I'll probably have some nerves in the first period, but after that it's just another hockey game. I'm looking forward to having some fun."

Vesey had 24 goals and 22 assists in 33 games at Harvard University last season and won the Hobey Baker Award. He became an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15, and agreed to terms with the Rangers four days later.

One of the reasons Vesey opted to sign with the Rangers was his longtime friendship with forward Kevin Hayes, who also will be in the lineup Thursday. Hayes said he relished the role of taking Vesey under his wing during training camp.

"It's nice to be able to share an NHL moment with him," Hayes said. "We played a bit together in the preseason, but this is the real thing here. He's really excited. He's probably a little nervous, but I told him it's never going to be worse than my first game. I was minus-2 in the first two shifts. There's going to be ups and downs, but he's going to be positive. I tell him you're here for a reason, you made the team for a reason. I think he's going to have a great game and I think he's going to be a great player."


Islanders projected lineup

Andrew Ladd -- John Tavares -- Jason Chimera

Anders Lee -- Ryan Strome -- Shane Prince

Anthony Beauvillier -- Brock Nelson -- Josh Bailey

Nikolay Kulemin -- Casey Cizikas -- Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy -- Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey -- Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan -- Dennis Seidenberg

Jaroslav Halak

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Alan Quine, Mathew Barzal, Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body)


Rangers projected lineup

Jimmy Vesey -- Derek Stepan -- Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Pavel Buchnevich

J.T. Miller -- Kevin Hayes -- Rick Nash

Michael Grabner -- Brandon Pirri -- Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh -- Dan Girardi

Marc Staal -- Nick Holden

Brady Skjei -- Adam Clendening

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Josh Jooris, Dylan McIlrath

Injured: Oscar Lindberg (hip), Kevin Klein (back)


Status report

Buchnevich, a third-round pick (No. 75) at the 2013 NHL Draft, also will make his NHL debut Thursday. He had 16 goals in 58 games in the Kontinental Hockey League last season. … Rangers coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Pirri will center the fourth line, making Jooris a healthy scratch. … Beauvillier, a first-round pick (No. 28) in 2015, will make his NHL debut after a solid training camp. Barzal, the 16th pick of the 2015 draft, will not play, but Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he'd like to give him a chance to play soon. … Lee, who took a slap shot off his leg during practice Wednesday, briefly skated Thursday morning and is expected to play.


Who's hot

Halak has won eight straight games head-to-head against Lundqvist, including five in a row with the Islanders. He hasn't lost against Lundqvist since Jan. 17, 2010. … Buchnevich had a goal and an assist in the Rangers' preseason finale against the Philadelphia Flyers last Thursday.

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