With forward Vinny Prospal now out of the lineup anywhere between 10 days and three weeks after undergoing knee surgery yesterday, Coach John Tortorella will yet again be forced to make some challenging decisions when it comes to the current lineup. However, he will not have to make these decisions until Wednesday when the Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. First, I think he will consider his options when thinking about how, exactly, he will fill the vacant spot.
There are two ways to go about doing this. The first would be to enter one of Aaron Voros or Erik Christensen back into the lineup. Voros has been a healthy scratch for 21 straight games now, so I do not really see him be called upon by Torts, but Christensen, on the other hand, seems more likely. Since picking up Christensen on the waiver wire earlier in the month, the faceoff-specialist has not really been given a good enough look, not only because he has been scratched, but when he does play, he does not see more than six or seven minutes of ice time. Now I do not know about you, but I cannot asses what a player can bring to the lineup just by seeing him take the ice about three times a night. It seems more like Tortorella just doesn’t have the patients to contend with teaching him at the moment.
His other option is to recall a forward from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Almost everyone has been given a try except Corey Locke, and I think that would be my choice this time around. The 25-year-old center from Toronto, Ontario has been stellar with the Wolf Pack this season, registering 15 goals and 26 assists for a combined 41 points. Those stats see him leading the team in scoring by a large margin, and this is only through 38 games played. Corey is emerging as an excellent prospect for the Blueshirts, and I think he finally deserves to show what he can do at the National Hockey League level.
That being said, who do you plug into Prospal’s spot on the first line with Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik? My personal choice would be Sean Avery. Avery has been the spark plug on this team whether they are winning or losing, and has been playing a smarter product of hockey this season. Really, your only other options are Higgins, Callahan, Lisin, and possibly Anisimov. Anisimov looks comfortable at center, so moving him from that position right now would be a mistake in my opinion. Callahan or Avery would be the best choice for Tortorella.
Both players have been playing well, but Avery has lacked production as of late, and placing him on the Gaborik line should surely fix that problem. Callahan has been just fine and should stay right where he is on the second offensive unit. If you recall, Avery played with Gaborik and Prospal in the game against Detroit, as well as when the Rangers clashed with the Hawks in Chicago. In both games, Gaborik and Prospal were completely shutdown, limiting scoring chances for that first line. Philadelphia is not going to be stopping Gabs like the Wings or Hawks did, so I think plugging Avery with the Slovakian Star would be wise and worth a try.
There have been decisions made this season that we have agreed with, but also ones that we have been disgusted over. When it has been left in the hands of John Tortorella like a situation like this usually is, we have been generally unsatisfied with the moves that were made and the players involved. At the same time, Torts has been preaching a "play the kids" type of mentality so maybe we will get the opportunity to see some of the young up and coming talent this organization possesses.