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Rangers get healthy, roster shakeup looms

Dec 26, 2011, 12:17 PM EDT

Wojtek Wolski Getty Images

These are good times for the New York Rangers.

Prior to the Christmas break, the Rangers moved into top spot in the Atlantic Division, a position that’s been monopolized by the Flyers and Penguins this season.

Now, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Blueshirts are about to get healthier.

Wojtek Wolski, out since Oct. 27 with a sports hernia, is expected to be ready by the end of this week. Marc Staal, who hasn’t played since Feb. 22 after suffering a concussion, could be cleared for contact this week and could make his season debut within the next two weeks (PHT notes: Yes, that’s a lot of “coulds”.)

Brooks also notes that Michael Sauer, sidelined since Dec. 5 with post-concussion syndrome, “seems to be improving” — though the organization hasn’t offered anything official regarding his health.

These are big developments on two fronts. One, New York is getting bodies back as the Winter Classic draws closer — which is in direct contrast to the Flyers, who have been ravaged by injury (though they did just get Claude Giroux back in the lineup).

Two, it presents some questions for head coach John Tortorella. Getting Wolski back will likely push New York’s extra forwards — Sean Avery and Erik Christensen, neither of whom play much — deeper into oblivion. Avery’s already expressed frustration over sitting out and Christensen can’t be happy with his role, having only dressed in four of New York’s 12 games this month.

There’s also the question of when to get Staal back into the lineup. He’s said he’d like to return in time for the Winter Classic, but neither he nor the team wants to risk a potential recovery setback. That said, the Rangers blueline is rather thin with Steve Eminger out (separated shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka on the limp. In their last game before the Christmas break, Torts went almost exclusively with four D as Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman all played over 24 minutes in a 4-2 win over Philly.

  1. danphipps01 - Dec 26, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    You gotta hope they’ll get Staal back soon. Running 4-5 D is going to kill your defensive play long-term. It’s just too much weight for them to bear for an extended period. That’s just about the only tripping point the Rangers might encounter this season by the looks of things, though – they’ve got all kinds of scoring, Lundqvist’s being as awesome as usual, and their backup is good enough that he can actually take a break more than once a month. They’re looking good, and if they can shore up their D in a timely manner, well… it’ll make the East a lot more interesting, let me put it that way.

  2. stakex - Dec 26, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    There is no excuse for Avery not to be in the lineup right now. In the games he played, he was one of their best players… and even managed 3 goals in those 15 games despite only playing 3-5 minutes a game. Hell, I would sooner put him back in the lineup then I would Wolski. You’ll get about the same production from them (probably more from Avery if he gets the ice time), but Avery is a great spark for the team.

    If anyone else was the Ragners cocach besides Torts Avery would be playing every game. Hes clearly one of the Rangers top 9 forwards…. but Torts is the type of coach who plays favorites. He hates Avery, and is going to give him as little ice as he possibly can. Its that simple. He would rather play some waste of space like Fedotenko.

  3. mtm1321 - Dec 26, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    I agree with the two previous comments especially about Avery. He should be a regular starter. He is without a doubt a spark-plug for the team. Torts is a good coach but you can’t let personal feelings hurt your coaching, leadership style or mostly your team.

  4. danphipps01 - Dec 26, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    I don’t know. They seem to be flying without him. These last few games have been their best so far this year, and though I think he may well be more valuable than Wolski given the same minutes… well, there are other options too. They haven’t been missing him lately, that much is obvious. I’m on the fence with him. He’s definitely the spark of emotion on that team, though. I’d seriously consider running him on the fourth line in every postseason game simply because of his value as a sparkplug. You need grit players in the playoffs. He knows how to play that game.

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