Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/23/11

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15: Blake Wheeler #26 of the Boston Bruins fights to retain possession against Michael Sauer #32 of the New York Rangers during the game on September 15, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Rangers need to improve their overall game, which was the message from head coach John Tortorella during this morning's practice in Edmonton before the team flew out to Winnipeg. But where they have been their weakest is on defense and part of that is due to the fact that both Marc Staal and Michael Sauer have been out of the lineup. While there still has been no updates on Staal as of late, Michael Sauer has been showing signs of improvement and is getting closer to his return. 

According to the Daily News, Sauer looked much stronger and faster in today's practice and the gritty defenseman said that the final hurdle will be how the training staff feels about him getting hit. I think as far as physical shape goes, Sauer is golden. But a defenseman is hit more than any other player, especially in the corners, and most of those hits occur at the shoulder area. That is where Sauer has been having problems. 

I know that Sauer has been given designated days off of practice so that he could spend time in the gym working on strengthening his shoulder, so it's definitely better suited for game action than it was two weeks ago in Europe. However, it's not hard to re-aggravate something like a shoulder, so the training staff needs to be completely confident that if Sauer is hit, which he will be, he will not receive more problem from his shoulder. 

I think tomorrow's game against the Jets in Winnipeg would be a reach for Sauer's return, and the Rangers will not want to take any risks either. I think it's more likely we see him back in the lineup on Thursday for the home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs at MSG. 

So that takes care of Sauer, but what is going on with Marc Staal? It's been weeks since we've gotten our last update on his health, so do we assume that it is status quo? Is he improving, or is he getting worse? There's a lot of questions to be asked but the Rangers have kept mum on the matter for quite a while now. 

I'm not panicking just yet because if anything devastating happened with Staal, the team would have no choice but to announce it to the media. If I had to guess, he probably hasn't been getting better or worse, so really there are no updates to give. Hopefully we hear something by the end of this week because it's become a growing concern among fans. 

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