As the New York Rangers continue to roll, it’s almost becoming overlooked how decimated by injury this team actually is.
Okay, so those injured are not forgotten, especially a guy like Marc Staal, who has yet to appear in a game this season. But he’s been cleared for contact and his return could be on the horizon. Perhaps in time for the Winter Classic? Doubtful, but there is hope.
Also set to return soon is forward Wojtek Wolski, who hasn’t played since the end of October because of a sports hernia. Don’t forget about Michael Sauer either, who is dealing with his own concussion, though his return could be much further off than the other two.
Of course, the big question once these guys return is how the Rangers’ lineup changes when they are back. It would be a relatively simple question to answer, if guys that were filling in for them weren’t playing so well.
The easiest situation to sort out is the forward lines with Wolski returning, which could happen within the next week. It’s unclear how the lineup would actually shape up with him in it, but it’s very likely that one of Sean Avery or Erik Christensen will left on the outside looking in.
Avery hasn’t dressed for a game since December 10th, while Christensen has only dressed in four December games for New York, his last coming on December 17th, in the Rangers’ win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Sean Avery has already done one stint in the AHL this season, and could be in line for another when Wolski returns.
However, it’s still hard to figure out the lineup when Wolski does return. Guys like John Mitchell have been playing well as injury subs, which will leave John Tortorella with quite a few decisions to make when it’s decided Wolski is at full strength.
It’s on the blue line where getting guys healthy gets really important. As great as guys like Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman have been of late, the Rangers’ defense remains in shambles because of injury. Staal hasn’t played this season, Sauer has been out since December 5th, and Steve Eminger won’t return for quite a few weeks.
As well as the Rangers have played with so many injuries, at both ends of the ice, getting guys, especially Staal, back into the lineup will be a welcome presence. But when they do officially return, Torts faces some pretty big decisions, as the youngsters and guys that were supposed to be just filling in for injured players have turned in very strong auditions and could be hanging around, even when guys start to get healthy.