For the second straight night Rick Nash will be unable to play Saturday when the Rangers face off with the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix. Nash is still slowed by a sore back, suffered during practice Thursday in Denver. He also missed Friday's 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
"He had another good day today, but just not good enough to go (tonight)," explained head coach Alain Vigneault two hours before game time at Gila River Arena. "He's day to day and should be alright in the next couple of days. The back sometimes does funny things. He tweaked it a little bit and it's going to take a couple of days."
With Nash missing again from the lineup, Emerson Etem will get to play for a second straight game, once more taking Nash's spot to the left of Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello Saturday night. Against the Avalanche Etem had some strong moments, logging nearly 13 minutes of ice time.
Despite the win in Colorado Friday, Vigneault will make two changes to his lineup in Arizona. Antti Raanta will make his third start of the season in goal, after Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 of 30 shots the night before; and veteran Dan Boyle is back in the lineup taking the place of rookie Dylan McIlrath.
"I think that Dylan has made some good strides and depending on how Dan plays at the end of the day, that's the biggest thing," Vigneault said in explaining which of the defensemen could grab ahold of the sixth spot on the team. "(Boyle) has to play better than he has so far. He knows that and would the first to tell you that. Tonight he gets another opportunity and hopefully he'll have a good game for us."
Boyle was a healthy scratch the past two games as McIlrath appeared in consecutive games for the first time this season--playing well in each Rangers victory. In ten games played this year, Boyle has two assists and a +3 plus/minus rating, though he has not recorded a point since October 19. McIlrath, who led the Rangers with four hits on Friday, is without a point in three games this season and is a +1.
"We've seen a good steady progression from last year to this year, and in these (two consecutive games), the last was probably his best in the regular season," Vigneault said of McIlrath, the team's 2010 first round pick. "I think he's on the right path."
Raanta has stopped 43 of the 44 shots he has faced in two starts so far this season, a 4-0 shutout over the San Jose Sharks on October 19 and and 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames six nights later. This will be his first start on the road, where the Rangers are 3-1-1 so far.
"I think in the two (games) Antti has played he has been playing extremely well," noted Vigneault. "He is giving us a chance to win, and we won both those games. There's no doubt in this small sample size that Antti has been good."