It's been nearly two months since defenseman Michael Sauer has played a game for the New York Rangers, and it looks as if the 24-year-old sophomore isn't as close to returning to the lineup as we thought he was a week ago. Sauer was concussed back on December 5 in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when Dion Phaneuf caught him along the boards with a thunderous blow. Sauer left the game and would not return, and has been on the road to recovery ever since.
Just last week Sauer began skating with the team in practice again, of course wearing a non-contact jersey as a precaution. The fact that he was on the ice gave the team hope that they would soon be getting one of their top four defenseman back around the time of the All-Star break. However, Sauer was kept off the ice Thursday and Friday for an unspecified reason, and one that the team wouldn't divulge much information on.
Head coach John Tortorella claims that he has not heard of any setbacks in regard to Sauer's comeback, but did note that Michael has been working off-ice with trainer Jim Ramsey. This is odd, because as we saw with Marc Staal last month, once he hit the ice for practice, he did not come off of it. He was out there everyday until he eventually lost the non-contact jersey and then re-joined the lineup.
If a concussed player is able to participate in practice with no symptoms appearing whatsoever, then it would not make sense to pull him off the ice and disrupt the most important time period during the recovery process. Now there's no real inside information to back this, but it does seem like there is something we are not being told about Sauer's situation. Before jumping to conclusions, however, we will have to wait and see if he again is held out of practice later today. If he is, then something's definitely up.
I think Sauer's role on the Rangers often goes under the radar. He's a pretty important shutdown guy for this team that is very vocal out on the ice, so there's a big hole on defense when he is not playing. I personally love Sauer and what he brings to this hockey club, so it's been frustrating to watch him have to go through two injuries that have kept him sidelined for long periods of time this season.
Plus, now with the Ryan McDonagh situation, we are not sure what we are looking at for the Rangers on defense. According to Brendan Shanahan's explanation video for Andrew Ference's suspension yesterday, the original reports were that McDonagh has not sustained any sort of serious injury, but the Rangers have yet to confirm.
I guess that's just another question that will be answered during today's practice.