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McIlrath, Jooris to Debut Against Sharks

Girardi, Buchnevich out; Raanta to get the start

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Defenseman Dan Girardi and forward Pavel Buchnevich will miss tonight's game due to injuries, opening the door for Dylan McIlrath and Josh Jooris to show the coaching staff they belong in the lineup full time.

Girardi remains day-to-day with a groin strain he suffered Saturday night in St. Louis, while Buchnevich is dealing with back spasms. Defenseman Kevin Klein is also day-to-day- with the same injury.

For McIlrath, it's another opportunity for him to show what he can add to the Rangers blueline.

"It's never easy," McIlrath said of being a healthy scratch. "Obviously I want to make a good impression when I'm out there … I've just got to stick to my game and what got me here."

McIlrath is expected to play with Brady Skjei on the team's third pair. McIlrath said the two played together a bit at the end of the 2014-15 season in Hartford after Skjei joined the Wolf Pack, and said the two could complement each other's games well.

"I'm familiar with him. I played a little bit with him in Hartford with him when he [joined the team] and a few times [in New York]," McIlrath said. "He's obviously a great skater, a good puck mover. I think we can compliment each other pretty well. I'll try and play the body first and he can wheel that puck out of the zone. I think we'll be fine."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said he expects McIlrath "to play well" in his first game of the season.

"We need him to play to his strengths and give us a good game," Vigneault said.

For Jooris, Monday night offers him another chance to show the coaching staff what type of player he is after an injury at the start of the preseason limited him to just one full exhibition game.

"It was frustrating not being able to go," Jooris told "You work hard all summer, especially coming to a new organization, a new team, you've got to make an impression. To not be able to play in preseason, or only get one game, it's frustrating but I did the best I could to get back in action as quick as possible. I'm real excited to get the opportunity tonight."

Vigneault said he hasn't had many chances to watch Jooris because of the injury, but that the scouting reports on him prior to this season were positive.

"He's worked extremely hard in practice. I've only seen him in that game, so he's going to get an opportunity to play tonight and hopefully we'll see some positives," Vigneault said. "I've heard a lot of good things about him from our scouts, now he's going to get an opportunity to play a game tonight that means something and hopefully he'll play well for us."

Antti Raanta will get the start for the Rangers in goal tonight after Henrik Lundqvist started the first two games of the regular season.

"It's always nice to get the first start," Raanta told reporters after the morning skate. "We've played a good two games already. We just hope to continue that even though we didn't get any points on Saturday, we were still fighting for those two points. That's our game plan tonight also."

Coincidentally, Raanta's first start of last season - and his first as a Ranger - came against these same San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden. That start resulted in a shutout.

"I think my wife told me yesterday something about that," Raanta said with a laugh.

Raanta said the game against the still unbeaten defending Western Conference champion is a good early test for the team.

"It's a great team against us," Raanta said. "It's always a good test. It's always nice to play against those guys. They have lots of talent there, but I think we're going to prove something against them and hopefully come away with two points."

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