The Rangers announced today that goalie Mike Richter will be sidelined for the Rangers next 2 games (23rd vs. Nashville and 27th vs. Carolina) because of an undisclosed injury, and Vitali Yeremeyev has been recalled from Hartford. In my opinion, Richter is not injured at all, but just needs some rest. The Rangers were likely to rest him in their next 2 games anyway, but I guess they decided to bring up Yeremeyev to get a look at him over the next week or so.
Yeremeyev, a 25 year old Kazakhstanian goalie who was selected in the 11th round of the 1994 Draft, has played OUTSTANDING with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 11 games this season. Yeremeyev has posted a 1.65 GAA, .951 Save%, and 2 shutouts. The ironic thing is that this is from someone who started the season struggling with the ECHL Charlotte Checkers (Jason Labarbera is the starter there now), as he posted a 4.23 GAA in only 5 games.
Playing excellent is not anything new to Yeremeyev however. In his last 3 years in Russia, Yeremeyev posted superb numbers. He had a 1.23 GAA with 7 shutouts in 26 games in 99/00 with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Elite League. The two previous years before that he posted a 1.80 GAA in 19 games with CSKA Moscow of the Russian Tier 2 league, and a 1.16 GAA with Yaroslavl of the Elite league in 16 games. Yeremeyev got teared apart on the National stage though. He was the starter for team Kazakhstan in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He allowed 28 goals in 7 games, en route to a 5.76 GAA. Yeremeyev can’t be blamed for most of the goals however, as Kazakhstan is not known for producing NHL calibre players and had a really bad team in the Olympics.
It was confirmed by John Davidson on Monday that Yeremeyev was practicing with the Rangers last week when they held their open practice at Rye Playland. I was unable to attend that practice, and therefore did not know that Yeremeyev was there until John Davidson confirmed it. I had a funny feeling though that the Rangers would bring him up in a few weeks to get a longer look at him. With Kirk McLean a soon-to-be UFA, the Rangers will be looking at one of their goalie prospects to take over the backup spot next season. Yeremeyev may have a slight advantage as he is already 25, but Johan Holmqvist and Jason Labarbera will give him a run for his money. It will be interesting to see if Yeremeyev gets any playing time with the Rangers. I would just love to see him start a game, but I don’t think it would happen. McLean will likely get the call in both games Richter will be out..and Yeremeyev will be there just in case of an injury. However, Glen Sather doesn’t share his plans with anybody..and he may have something up his sleeve that we aren’t aware about. So let’s all stay tuned and keep an eye out for Yeremeyev this week!