With an uncertain future regarding Ruslan Fedotenko following a dirty hit to the head last week, the Ranges have been using defenseman Stu Bickel as a forward the past two games, rather than call up forwards Wojtek Wolski or Mats Zuccarello.
Bickel hasn’t seen much ice time in his two games up front. Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, Bickel six shifts for just over four minutes. Sunday afternoon against the Washington Capitals, Bickel played 3:30 and was glued to the bench for the entire third period.
Following the game, head coach John Tortorella said Bickel wasn’t the permanent solution to fill Fedotenko’s roster spot.
It is telling, though, that Tortorella did not opt to recall either forward from the AHL, and preferred to pencil in a rookie whose natural position is defense.
It’s been the season from hell for Wolski, who battled injuries and was relegated to the press box for most of his time during his second season in New York. He’s had success, though, with the Connecticut Whale, tallying three goals and five points in just six games, albeit against minor league competition.
Zuccarello has been trapped in the AHL since being sent down after the Rangers’ third game of the season. In an injury-plagued season, Zuccarello has 10 goals and 30 points in just 26 games.
The Rangers could use both players on the big squad right now, especially with a roster spot available. Although the Blueshirts are winning, they could use offensive-type players like Wolski and Zuccarello who could make things happen up front.
Wolski has showed that he can play in this league and be successful. Sure, he’s inconsistent but he’ll give you more of a jump on the scoresheet than Bickel.
Same goes for Zuccarello, who was successful last season as a rookie for the Rangers. He’s got hands of gold and is a pure playmakers. He’s also nearly lights-out in the shootout, something the Rangers have not been successful in this season.
Where Zuccarello would contribute the most is on the powerplay, which even after a big game yesterday in Philadelphia is still struggling. Zuccarello sees lanes and is crafty in finding open space.
A lot comes down to the health of Fedotenko, but all indications point to him missing a significant amount of time. If — and it’s a big if — either player could jump into the lineup and contribute up front, it would be the equivalent of adding a player without giving up anything.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia