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Sauer gets the call on defense for opener

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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Game Notes

By Jim Cerny,

When the Rangers open up their 85th anniversary season this evening with a contest in Buffalo against the Sabres, rookie defenseman Michael Sauer will be in the lineup, teamed on the third defensive pairing with veteran Steve Eminger.

The fifth and sixth spots on defense were up in the air until this morning, when Rangers head coach John Tortorella announced that second-year pro Matt Gilroy would be the healthy scratch among the defensemen tonight.

Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Sauer got a big vote of confidence from the coaching staff today, as he was given a spot in tonight's lineup.
“We just felt as a coaching staff that Sauer had a better camp (than Gilroy),” said Tortorella, who also pointed out that he preferred Eminger playing the left side as opposed to righty shots Sauer or Gilroy, cementing his spot in the lineup. “It’s one game and it’s certainly not a negative on Gilly’s work in camp. It’s just that we need to make a decision. It came down to Sauer or Matt, and we chose Sauer.”

Sauer, the Rangers’ second round selection in the 2005 Entry Draft, played three NHL games during the 2008-09 season. Shoulder surgery limited him to 42 games played with the Hartford Wolf Pack a year ago.

“It’s going to be exciting, because this is the level you work so hard to get to and where you want to play, and you want to show you belong,” said Sauer, 23. “I’m sure it’s going to be a good crowd out there, a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to tonight.”

Along with Gilroy, forwards Todd White and Tim Kennedy will be healthy scratches for the Rangers tonight.

“You have to live in the present and don’t want to look too far ahead ever,” said Sauer. “You’re given the day and you have to make the most of it, especially at this level where you have to show what you have every day.”

Drury returns to practice with teammates

Chris Drury
For the first time since breaking his left index finger a few weeks ago, Rangers captain Chris Drury was back on the ice with his teammates for the morning skate at Buffalo. Drury had been skating on his own, but today marked the first time he took part in drills with his teammates.

After the skate Drury said he felt “great”, although he emphasized that there is no set timetable for his return to the lineup just yet. He also said that he will see the doctor again on Tuesday and should have a better idea about when he might return after that visit.

“I think the next couple of days maybe he’ll be able to use the stick a little bit more,” Tortorella said of Drury. “He’s improving, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Stepan set for his NHL debut

Derek Stepan
20 year-old rookie Derek Stepan will make his NHL debut tonight. He will center a pair of veterans -- Sean Avery on his left and Ruslan Fedotenko on his right.

After the morning skate at Buffalo, Stepan said that he did not feel nervous, but he figured he might have some butterflies before the Rangers take to the ice this evening. Stepan said that his plan was to see his mother -- who drove all the way from Minnesota to Buffalo -- briefly in the afternoon, take a nap, and then head to the arena afterwards.

“My mindset is that it’s a hockey a game and I have to prepare myself to play,” said Stepan. “I think I am more excited than nervous.”

Tortorella is excited himself to see Stepan play in his first real NHL action tonight.

“I think he embraces all of his challenges and looks at it as an opportunity,” Tortorella said of Stepan. “I think he’ll be a good player for us tonight.”
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