Rangers Face Log-Jam on Defense When Healthy

The Rangers have faced a bit a of a jam upfront with its forwards, and now with the return of Marc Staal to the lineup after missing the first three months of the year with post-consusion symptoms, the jam shifts its focus to the defensive corps.

According to Steve Zipay at Blue Notes (Newsday), the Rangers will have some choices to make as their blueliners get healthy. That started Monday when Jeff Woywitka was scratched to make room for Staal.

The decisions will only get more difficult as Michael Sauer, who is currently battling back from a concussion he suffered last month, and later down the road Steve Eminger return to the lineup — though Eminger is still about five to seven weeks away after separating his shoulder.

Assuming both Sauer and Eminger’s spots in the top seven are secure — and rightfully so — it will eventually come down to Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel.

According to Zipay, both bring something different to the lineup. Stralman, who failed to make the New Jersey Devils roster out of training camp before signing a contract with the Rangers, offers more speed in moving the puck and more NHL experience than Bickel. The 25-year-old rookie who was called up last month offers the Rangers more grit that they lack right now.

If I put my GM hat on right now — or a few weeks down the road — I think I keep Stralman on the roster, though I’ve grown fond of Bickel based on his physicality. Stralman just offers a more balanced game, and like Zipay said, has more experience in the league than Bickel. 

Stralman has been a pleasant surprise since he joined the team a few months back. In 14 games with New York, the 25-year-old Swede has five assists, but is a plus-10. 

Sadly, Woywitka’s days with the team are more than likely drawing to a close. I think coach John Tortorella is more comfortable with both Bickel and Stralman, and will be waived or reassigned. Rangers fans should be happy with Woywitka, who was picked up in October after the string of injuries began on the blueline.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

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