After breaking his finger in the first game of the season, Chris Drury has begun skating again this week and is inching closer to returning to the lineup. When he finally makes his return, somebody is going to lose significant ice time and quite possibly their roster spot as well (that' would be you Todd White). The Rangers have struggled on face-offs all season long and it seems likely that Drury will be returning as a pivot instead of shifting to wing as hes done in the past.
Currently there are two center spots that seem to be guaranteed as both Artem Anisimovand Brian Boyle have solidified their roles down the middle. This leaves Derek Stepan and Erik Christensen battling for their ice time when The Captain makes his long awaited return.
After an unmatched debut with a hat-trick against the Buffalo Sabres, Stepan has cooled off and has been roughing it out through most of his rookie campaign. However, Stepan has yet to look out of place in the Rangers lineup and has not been a defensive liability. He has also made progress over his past five games and is once again beginning to generate scoring opportunities.
Join me after the jump for more.
Erik Christensen has thus far been rather unspectacular. The same inconsistency that nearly knocked him out of the NHL a little less than a year ago has once again been a problem. EC has the talent and the size to be a very good NHL player but he lacks the confidence required to play his game on a nightly basis. Tortorella is known to be frustrated with his inability to transfer his skills to game situations. There is also the Sean Avery fiasco in which he unceremoniously chucked his teammate under the bus to the Edmonton media. The situation has been 'handled internally' but it seems fair to guess that his actions didn't bode too well in the locker room. His comments may not have severely hurt his cause, but they sure as heck haven't helped him.
It's difficult to determine which of the two has played better with Marian Gaborik since he has missed most of the season. And even though Christensen has started the games centering the top line since Gabby's return, more often than not it has been Stepan who has finished them in that spot.Tortorella has given subtle indications that he trusts Stepan more than EC as he has played him in high leverage situations. Torts hasn't been afraid to put Stepan on the ice in the final shifts of a close game and he has had nothing but good things to say about him to the media. Stepan presents a greater upside and a higher potential than EC. Stepan is the future of this organization and when a decision needs to be made, it will likely be Christensen who finds himself in a shirt and tie on game-day.