Every team in the NHL will have to deal with their share of
injuries during the 2011-12 season, but the New York Rangers are being hit hard
on defense with injuries right now.
Already without Marc Staal (concussion), Michael Sauer missed another
day of practice today (shoulder). Sauer
has not practiced at all since the team returned from Europe and Andrew Gross tweeted
that Sauer is likely to miss tomorrow’s game against the Islanders.
If Sauer does miss the game the Rangers are looking at Del
Zotto, Erixon, Woywitka and Eminger as the bottom four defenders in the
lineup. Those defensive pairings from practice…
While McDonagh and Girardi will certainly eat a ton of minutes regardless
of whether Sauer goes tomorrow, looking at that bottom four against the speed
and skill of the Islanders is a scary proposition for the Rangers. Mitigating the loss of Staal is enough to
deal with, but being without both Staal and Sauer is a huge blow the Rangers
In terms of those four playing tomorrow, pairing Erixon and Del Zotto
seems like a recipe for disaster at even strength defensively. Both have played reasonably well in the first
two games, but both have their defensive shortcomings at this point so putting
the two young defenders together might not be the best move. Del Zotto pairing with Eminger while Woywitka
plays with Erixon seems like a more balanced approach, but regardless the loss
of Sauer from the lineup would likely be very evident tomorrow.