After playing two strong game games filling in for the injured Rick Nash, Emerson Etem has earned the right to remain in the lineup Tuesday even when Nash returns against the Carolina Hurricanes. Head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to keep Etem in the lineup, making veteran Dominic Moore a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
With Nash sidelined over the weekend, Etem played a top six role on a line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello for the first time this season. He logged 12:56 worth of ice time in Friday's 2-1 win in Colorado and a season-high 14:25 in Saturday's 4-1 victory in Arizona.
"I thought his overall game was good (this past weekend)," Vigneault said of the 23 year-old Etem. "He skated well, skated well with the puck, played the body when the opportunity was there. So hopefully tonight with Jarret (Stoll) and Jesper (Fast) we'll see more of the same from him."
Etem, who will be playing in his sixth game this season, will be appearing in his season-high third straight contest and fifth in the past six games. So far he has registered just one assist and three shots, but he has also been credited with 12 hits and has been a force on the fore check when in the lineup.
"Whatever role I'm put in, I just try and prepare myself to play that next game,
Etem told BlueshirtsUnited.com last week. "Playing with different guys might dictate a different style of play, but really my game doesn't change. I try and chip in offensively, but more importantly I want to be strong defensively and consistently play on the right side of the puck."
Moore had appeared in every game so far this season, with one goal and a +3 plus/minus rating, playing roughly 14 minutes a night on the fourth line and as one of the top penalty killers on the team.
Vigneault admitted it was not an easy decision to sit the veteran tonight against the Hurricanes at The Garden.
"Any time you are faced with decisions like that, it's not easy, especially with a guy like Dom and what he's done for our team," stated Vigneault. "But I'm looking at the big picture and I'm trying to see if I can't come up with a combination tonight."
Rookie defenseman Dylan McIlrath will also be scratched tonight, with veteran Dan Boyle playing his second consecutive game after sitting out the previous two.
Henrik Lundqvist starts in goal for the Rangers against a Hurricanes team that has not won at The Garden in its last nine visits.