Grachev Could Make NHL Debut Tonight


Written on 10/08/2009 by Jim Cerny

Already flush with the early successes of rookie defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy, the Rangers might be able to see another of their talented top prospects make his NHL debut this evening in Washington D.C.

19 year-old winger Evgeny Grachev has been recalled from the club's AHL affiliate in Hartford due to the fact that Ryan Callahan suffered what the team is calling a "minor upper body" injury at this morning's skate at the Verizon Center. No media members saw the injury occur since all were speaking with coach John Tortorella at the time, so by "upper body", I mean exactly that.

It is not known whether or not Callahan will be able to play this evening, so clearly Grachev's recall is a precautionary move. It also means that Sean Avery is not yet ready to return to the Rangers lineup, since he was already in Washington skating with the team. Had he been deemed healthy enough to play---he has missed the first three games of the season with a sprained knee---there would not have been a need to call up Grachev from Hartford.

Avery told me at practice yesterday, "Not to say that I'm not effective at 85 or 90 percent, but I think it's not fair to the team, and I don't think it's fair to myself, when you do it this early (in the season). It's not Game 80 and we're in a playoff race."

When he does return to the lineup---and Avery is now targeting Sunday at home against Anaheim---he does not expect to hold back at all.

"When I am ready to play, I just play," said Avery. "I don't think I am going to favor anything. I certainly don't think that's in my mentality."

But obviously both Avery and Tortorella feel that he is not quite ready to re-enter the lineup, otherwise Grachev would not be in DC right now.

As for Grachev, he had a solid pre-season and impressed Tortorella with his battle level and with how strong he was on the puck. Interestingly, the one area that Grachev did not excel during the pre-season was in putting the puck in the net, which is his forte, evidenced by his 40-goal output with Brampton in the OHL a year ago.

Defenseman Alexei Semenov, who was in camp with the Rangers before signing in the KHL back in Russia, shared some interesting observations with me about the 6'4", 220 pound man-child that is Grachev. He said right now the only thing holding Grachev back from playing in the NHL is confidence to bury the puck, again intriguing considering that is the main talent he brings to the table. Semenov said he noticed a hesitation in that area by Grachev, and believed that some time---maybe not even a whole season---in the AHL would solve the problem.

Follow me on Twitter tonight to see if Grachev makes his NHL debut, and, if so, how he fares. Also, check in for the latest on Callahan's injury.

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