New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

The New York Rangers take on the hated Philadelphia Flyers in a home preseason tune-up with only a few roster spots to be decided.

By Steven Cifuentes

The New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 PM ET at Madison Square Garden tonight with only a few roster spots to be claimed.

The Rangers trimmed their roster to 25 players for the final two preseason games.  With the Rangers expected to start the season with 21 or 22 players the next two games will feature a majority of the Rangers regular lineup.

The Rangers projected lineup for tonight raises one question on the backend, where is Raphael Diaz?

The Rangers are expected to carry seven defenseman once the final cuts are made, but head coach Alain Vigneault has hinted he would like to keep eight if the salary cap allows it. Has Diaz locked up a spot with his two power play goals vs. the New Jersey Devils or is Dylan McIlrath the front runner for the seventh defenseman spot? While I don’t think Diaz will be cut, I do think the Rangers will make room for McIlrath and carry eight defenseman to start the 2015-2016 season. This team needs size on defense and a spot start against big teams is exactly the role McIlrath can fill.

Antti Raanta will start tonight and play the entire game. Raanta has locked up the backup goalie spot and with Henrik Lundqvist likely playing the final pre-season game vs. the Bruins this will be Raanta’s final tune-up prior to the 2015-2016 regular season.

Leading the pack of players that must impress is Emerson Etem.  Emerson has shown nothing this pre-season and I am sure Glen Sather is wondering what he got for Carl Hagelin.  Etem has made no impact this pre-season and is under the radar tonight. He should make the final roster, but I see healthy scratch written all over him.

With the regular season right around the corner it is time for the roster to take shape and for the players on the bubble to make an impression.  There is no better way to do that then to make an impact against the hated Flyers.

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Founder of New York Hockey Message board on Facebook. If you want to know one man's opinion of Rangers hockey, great and awful, he is the man to seek out. Steve is a self proclaimed obsessed Rangers Fan. Steven's perfect romantic evening is a Beer, Wings and a Ranger game on TV with his girlfriend. Girlfriend is optional of course.