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Rangers forward Etem planning for next opportunity

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Emerson Etem has a plan for the next time he gets into a game.

"You're trying to crack the lineup and you definitely have to make smart decisions, but at the same time maybe you have to step out of your comfort zone, step out of the boundaries, try something new to get that kind of attention," Etem said. "It's not to put pressure on myself or anything like that, but the time is going to come and I have to build off of my last performance. That's all I can control.

Etem's only performance this season came in a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday. He played 7:09 and was a minus-1; a result of his failure to cleanly win a 50-50 puck battle along the wall against Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban.

Etem has been a healthy scratch in New York's six other games. He said his problems winning 50-50 puck battles is a big reason why that's the case. He said it was a struggle for him in his four preseason games as well.

Etem, though, admitted he expected a difficult transition period after he was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Rangers on June 27. It's not as if he has come to a team that absolutely needs what he can bring -- size, speed, shot -- right now. He knew it would be a challenge to crack the Rangers' lineup, and it has been every bit of one.

"But when I get that opportunity I'm going to make the most of it," Etem said.

He's been saying that for a while, maybe too long.

The Ducks selected Etem with the No. 29 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. He played in 38 of 48 games in the 2012-13 season, but just 74 of 164 games in the past two seasons.

Etem was advertised as a fast power forward who could score, based on his 252 points in 202 games in the Western Hockey League for the Medicine Hat Tigers, but he hasn't produced in the NHL. He has 31 points in 113 games.

Etem's struggles to crack the Rangers' lineup are a continuation of his struggles to establish himself as an everyday NHL player.

He doesn't deny that.

"Maybe it can be a little frustrating at times, but you look at guys like Joel Ward or even Duncan Keith, the list goes on and on about guys who were journeymen in the minors and became breakout stars in this league," Etem said. "Those sort of stories give me hope. It's going to come."

Etem first needs another chance to impress Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. There's no way to know when that will come, but he has a plan for when it does.

"Win those 50-50 battles and get out of my comfort zone to try to make something happen out there," Etem said.


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