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Things We Learned Today: September 20, 2015

by Jim Cerny / New York Rangers

All three groups took part in two practices apiece on Sunday at the MSG Training Center as training camp continued, and the coaches prepared for Monday's pre-season opener against the Devils at Madison Square Garden.

So what happened Sunday, and what did we learn?

Let's take a closer look.

There's A Real Competition For The Right To Be Henrik's Back Up

Some may have assumed that Antti Raanta would automatically be Henrik Lundqvist's back up this season after the Finnish netminder was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this summer. However head coach Alain Vigneault--and Raanta himself--dispelled that notion on Sunday. Instead there's going to be an "open battle", in Vigneault's words, between the 26 year-old Raanta and 24 year-old Swedish rookie Magnus Hellberg, both of whom will play in each of the first two pre-season games Monday against the Devils and Tuesday down in Philly against the Flyers. "I think Raanta might have a little bit of the upper edge because he has a little more experience, but it's like anything else, it's good internal competition, and we're going to pick whoever helps us to win," explained Vigneault after practice. Neither Raanta, who has two years worth of NHL experience backing up Corey Crawford in Chicago, and Hellberg, who has one NHL relief appearance under his belt, has stood out yet in camp, but the pre-season games could see one or the other distance himself from his competitor. "Every goalie has to show what they have, and I am the new guy here so i have a lot to show," stated Raanta on Sunday. "The last couple of years, though, I became more mentally ready (to play a back up role)."

Mackenzie Skapski Is Progressing Nicely Following Hip Surgery

Though he sparkled in two NHL starts as a 20 year-old rookie last season, Mackenzie Skapski was suffering all year with a hip injury that only got worse when he tried to play late in the season for the Hartford Wolf Pack after Henrik Lundqvist returned to the Rangers lineup and Skapski was sent back down to the minor leagues. Skapski underwent off-season hip surgery and on Sunday told that he feels much better physically right now then he did at any point last year. Saturday was his first day facing shots in over four months, and Skapski admitted to being quite rusty, explaining that his reaction time was just not there. However the good news is that he is feeling great and should be back up to speed soon, though he said that he is frustrated not being able to play in any pre-season games. "There are a lot of goalies here in camp showing what they can do, and unfortunately I can't," said Skapski. "But you can't speed up the recovery process, and I feel great where I am today physically, so that's the most important thing." Along with Skapski, Lundqvist, Raanta, and Hellberg, the other goalies in training camp are veteran Cedric Desjardins--who is coming off a major knee injury--minor leaguer Jeff Malcolm, and key prospect Brandon Halverson.

You Won't Guess Who Scored The Most Impressive Goal Sunday

Talk about making the most of your chances: 18 year-old Russian defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy, the Rangers third round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft out of Regina in the WHL, got bumped up from Group C--which are the prospects likely to be returned to their junior teams shortly--to Group A on Sunday with defenseman Calle Andersson not skating for an unspecified reason and the youngster scored a highlight-reel goal against Henrik Lundqvist, drawing whistles and cheers from the players in his group. During a five on five drill Zborovskiy, who notched 19 points and 70 penalty minutes in 71 games last year for Regina, carried the puck over the blue line, danced around former Pittsburgh Penguin Jayson Megna, and dangled with the puck before wiring a shot through traffic and past Lundqvist from between the circles--clearly the most impressive goal of the day in any of the on-ice sessions.

Rick Nash Could Be A Pretty Good Lacrosse Player, Too

Rick Nash scored a career-high 42 goals last season, so he's not looking to switch professions any time soon, but he did show some serious lacrosse skills on Sunday. In an informal scramble of shots as practice was winding down, Lundqvist--in a one against everyone scenario--stopped shot after shot, frustrating his teammates in the process. Eventually the puck went behind the net and Nash retrieved it, cradled the puck on his stick blade, picked it up, and whipped it lacrosse-like as he skated out and to the right of Lundqvist. Though the puck just missed the top far corner of the net, it was an impressive display by the Blueshirts sniper.

Emerson Etem Has Impressed Vigneault

Emerson Etem, acquired in the off-season from Anaheim, has been skating with Jarret Stoll and Marek Hrivik during the first couple days of camp, and has clearly impressed Vigneault with his work ethic and desire to better himself. "Etem has good puck protection skills, good takeaway speed, and he's been on the coaches trying to get a head start on his video work, asking a lot of questions," Vigneault said of the 23 year-old California native. "He's a young player that definitely wants to get better."

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