Rangers Vs. Maple Leafs: What Michael Sauer's Return Means For The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Michael Sauer #38 of the New York Rangers attempts to control the puck in the corner against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 20, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers got some fantastic news yesterday, when Michael Sauer confirmed that he was cleared to play and is expected to play in the Rangers' home opener tonight. 

The addition will do quite a bit to solidify the New York Rangers' defensive corps. John Tortorella has wheeled in Brendan Bell and Jeff Woywitka in that sixth defenseman position, especially since Tim Erixon has been making strides and looking better and better each game. 

This move also explains why the Rangers elected to send down Bell back on Tuesday. 

Sauer, who could have played against the Winnipeg Jets, took a few extra days off to make sure that he was 100% coming into tonight, so I don't expect him to be given a lighter workload. 

Join me after the jump to see what else Sauer's return does for the New York Rangers. 

The penalty kill will get another big addition when Sauer returns tonight.

Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh have been the heavy lifters so far when the Rangers are down a man, averaging 4:42 and 4:12 minutes of shorthanded time a night so far. That's mainly because Tortorella hasn't had too many other defenseman to throw out there on a consistent basis. 

To put things into perspective, Michael Del Zotto has averaged 1:07 on the penalty kill so far this year. Last year, Del Zotto averaged 31 seconds. Tim Erixon is also seeing some penalty kill time, averaging 42 seconds a night, and is improving his play when the Rangers are a man down. But the return of Sauer should help minimize the unexpected help defensively. 

Sauer should help bring down Girardi (28:13) and McDonagh's (25:00) total ice time down as well, since Sauer is another defenseman that Tortorella trusts to soak up big minutes. 

Essentially, Sauer should be a big shot in the arm to a team that's watched its defense get deleted from opening night. 

And just in time too, those Maple Leafs have been lighting it up of late. 

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