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Home Opener Preview: Rangers @ Ducks

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The Ducks welcome an angry New York Rangers team into Honda Center tonight to kick off the home schedule.

Chris McGrath

Tonight is the home opener and the debut of the new renovations at Honda Center.  For those of you here in the Southern California area to attend, here are the details on the opening night festivities.  And now let's get to talking some hockey...

It's been a really weird start to the season for the Rangers.  They opened with a 4-1 loss in Phoenix, then went on to beat the Kings, with the flukiest goal of all fluky goals, get demolished 9-2 by the Sharks on Tuesday and just to add insult to injury (or vice versa) Rick Nash left the game against San Jose after taking a head shot from Brad Stuart (suspended three games).

Keys to the Game: Whatever San Jose did.  So, I guess that means four goals from a 19-year-old.  We're counting on you Hampus!  But seriously, the Rangers have something to prove early in this game and the Ducks will, most likely, have to withstand an early surge.

I've been relatively pleased with the Ducks' starts to all of the games so far and scoring hasn't been a big strong suit for the Rangers yet.  Brad Richards is leading the Blueshirts in scoring so far, but two of his three goals have come in conjunction with Nash (who is on concussion watch) and the third came on the power play.  So if the Ducks can find a way to beat Henrik Lundqvist for one or two in the first period, I like their chances.

What Can We Learn From this Game: Emerson Etem returned to practice on Tuesday and since then his prospects of playing tonight have increased day by day.  At first he was optimistic, but Boudreau was non-committal, but yesterday (according to Eric Stephens $) there seemed to be a good chance that Etem would be ready for the home opener.

We've all gotten used to the Boudreau line shuffling, but now thanks to injuries to Etem and Kyle Palmieri, as well as healthy scratching Dustin Penner and Teemu Selanne (still sounds weird) and the acquisition of Mathieu Perreault just prior to the start of the season, it's been even more difficult to nail down who will be playing with whom.

Boudreau has historically been reluctant to put Etem on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.  With the Long Beach native effectively coming in for Palmieri, this could be another opportunity for Penner or Patrick Maroon to prove that they deserve their shot with the twins.

Fearless Prediction: Lundqvist literally peirces someone with his eyes, gets two minutes for being too pretty, and the Ducks fail to score on the resulting power play.

Stay tuned to this story stream for potential updates throughout the day, and a stats pack accompanying the official GameThread, shortly before puck drop for in-game comments.