Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/3/12

There is no point in continuing to keep Stu Bickel in the lineup. 

I'm not saying that because he is of no use to the team or because he's been a liability out on defense since neither of those, for the most part, are true. I'm saying it because quite simply, the coaching staff does not use him. Last night's 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals fell just five minutes short of becoming the length of two complete hockey games, yet Bickel only saw 3:24 of ice time and did not take a shift beyond the second period. For those keeping track, that's over two hours glued to the bench while your team is going through a gut-wrenching sudden death battle. 

This is nothing new, either. Bickel has seen very few minutes throughout the playoffs, going back to the series against the Ottawa Senators. Clearly Tortorella/Sullivan has little, if any, confidence in Bickel even though it will never publicly be admitted. So if you have no confidence in a player and you continuously choose not to play him, why keep him in the lineup?

There is no reason, and the fact that Bickel brings a certain level of toughness to the lineup does not even factor in since this series, because of the teams involved, will not get to the point physically where enforcers will be needed to settle things as they were against the Senators. 

Insert: Steve Eminger. Eminger had been out of the lineup since March 15 with a separated ankle before returning to play fourth line wing in Game 1 against the Capitals. With Boyle returning the following game, Eminger was sent up to the press box for Games 2 and 3. With the development surrounding Stu Bickel, it is time Eminger laces up the skates for his first game on defense since mid-March.

Rolling with five defensemen will only harm the Rangers, not help them. Especially with last night's contest venturing into a sixth period, the fatigue that will come upon those five guys with the inability to have three functioning pairings will take a toll very quickly. If coach Tortorella has the desire to last until the Stanley Cup Finals, he cannot go on like this. As amazing as it was to see Ryan McDonagh play close to an hour's worth of minutes last night, it was completely ridiculous. He is only a sophomore in the NHL, remember, so he's never gone this far in the playoffs before. Sure, he's in fantastic shape, but his body is not prepared for what is to come if he continues logging absurd minutes. 

Steve Eminger is very capable. He's proved that this year, much more so than the last, so he is serviceable on the third pairing. To be honest, I'd be more comfortable with Bickel there as I find Bicks to be responsible, but I am not the coach. Tortorella is and it is time for him to make the overdue decision to bring Eminger into the defensive rotation. 

The Rangers did not practice today, which is probably wise since they played into the wee hours of the morning in Game 3. So we won't know the scenario on defense until tomorrow the earliest, but do not count on that either, because as we've seen, Tortorella is not the most revealing person when it comes to his lineup in the playoffs. We may have to wait until warm-ups of Game 4 to see if Eminger has finally been swapped in for Bickel, which is a move that only makes sense at this point in time. 

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