With news breaking yesterday that the New York Rangers have recalled Brendan Bell from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, the reality of being without Michael Sauer for a more extended period of time than originally expected began to set in.
The timing really can't be worse, especially since the Rangers next matchup is against one of the better offensive teams in the league. The Vancouver Canucks boast talent all over their roster, and with the way the Rangers have been taking penalties of late, that spells trouble.
Sauer might not be a number one defenseman, but he was expected to play a vital role while Marc Staal was still injured. And while Sauer did play the first two games of the season, his absence against the New York Islanders was visible. John Tortorella can only go to Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh so many times on the penalty kill before the duo gets exhausted. Defenseman Steve Eminger has also seen a ton of minutes of the penalty kill, but his partner with the man disadvantage was usually Sauer.
Join me after the jump for more.
Sauer was one player who helped relieve that pressure, now it's up to the Rangers to find a way to help spread out that pressure so it's not so concentrated on Girardi and McDonagh. That is, of course, much easier said than done.
Michael Del Zotto won't be seeing any time on the penalty kill, and while it's a role that Tim Erixon can thrive in one day, it might be too early in his development to see him play significant minutes there anytime soon. Bell and Jeff Woywitka will probably end up sending some time when New York finds itself down a man, but how much they will be trusted remains to be seen.
Tortorella can rotate some of his forwards in more fluidly, to keep the unit fresh and aggressive as per his style, but the coach has limited Brandon Prust's penalty kill minutes, and Prust is one of the best penalty killers on the team. Tortorella can cycle in guys like Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky early and often, but that strategy would leave them fatigued.
Kris Newbury, who was recalled from Connecticut when the Rangers sent down Matts Zuccarello, might be another option, but everything is still in motion in terms of forwards who are killing penalties.
In the end, the Rangers can avoid this problem by staying out of the box. Both McDonagh and Girardi are playing over five minutes a night on the penalty kill, that can be avoided by playing smart and disciplined hockey. And against a team like Vancouver, that's exactly what the Rangers need to do if they want their first win of the season.