Found March 26, 2012 on Blue Seat Blogs:
Anaheim_ducks_v_e92b

With a playoff spot clinched, we are running a new series about turning points in the season. These posts will focus on moves the Rangers made that effectively turned their season from mediocre to great. Part one: Calling up Hagelin and Mitchell.

The Rangers started the season shorthanded on the blue line. Marc Staal was out indefinitely with a concussion to start the season, so the Rangers were already short a top pairing defenseman. A rotation of Anton Stralman, Steve Eminger, and Jeff Woywitka was being used to fill the bottom pairing, and had been doing so with minimal success.

Fast forward to December 5, when Mike Sauer hit the boards awkwardly after a thunderous Dion Phaneuf hit. Sauer was diagnosed with a concussion, and hasn’t been seen since. Now, the Rangers are down two top-four defensemen. Just like he had last year, Eminger filled in nicely on the top four while paired with Michael Del Zotto. He made the injuries to Sauer and Staal easier to manage.

Then the world seemed to come crashing down for the Rangers. On December 17, the Rangers lost Eminger to a separated shoulder. In that same game, the Rangers also lost Woywitka, albeit for a short period of time. With Eminger out of the lineup, and Tim Erixon not ready for the show at that time, the Rangers called up their last cut in preseason: Stu Bickel.

Acquired in a deal with Anaheim for Nigel Williams, Bickel wasn’t garnering much attention until he was the last man cut in Europe. The Rangers blue line was in shambles, with four players lost to injury, three long term. Bickel and Erixon would play on the third pairing for the next week until Woywitka returned from injury, but Bickel was the attention grabber.

With four assists in his first three NHL games, Bickel was creating a stir in New York. Add in his physical presence that the Rangers sorely needed with Sauer injured, and Bickel instantly became a favorite of the coaching staff. Now, even though the Rangers are close to full strength on defense, Bickel still remains with the club.

The Steve Eminger injury paved the way for Stu Bickel to make his mark in the organization. Bickel may not have had the affect that Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell did (in terms of puck possession), but don’t underestimate how important it is to have a steady presence on that bottom pairing. Bickel’s call up was the beginning of the end for the revolving door that was the bottom pairing.

Four months later, none of Eminger, Woywitka, or even Stralman are coming close to dressing for a game. And it can all be traced back to a separated shoulder in December. Sometimes injuries are blessings in disguise.

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Video(s): Gaborik, McDonagh and Stepan All Return Home to Minny

It will be a big time homecoming for the New York Rangers when they take on the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center tonight. For forward Marian Gaborik, he spent the first eight years of his NHL career playing in Minnesota. And for sophomores Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan, Minnesota was their actual "home" where their dreams of becoming hockey players first developed...

Practice Notes: Dubi with Boyle & Feds; Film Session: Lines Not Set for Playoffs

The Rangers report that that all healthy players took part in this morning's practice and that Steve Eminger remains off the ice....does anyone know what happened to Eminger? I don't think it's ever been reported.Meanwhile, Katie Strang of ESPN NY says that Brandon Dubinsky skated on a line with Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky....surprised to see the hot Dubinsky practicing...

Postgame: Rangers Take Down Leafs in Shootout to Grab First in NHL

Come playoff time, it’s not about how you win games, but rather if you win games. The New York Rangers were not at the top of their game tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, but at the end of the night they found a way to earn a huge two points in the standings to claim first place in the National Hockey League. You can complain all you want about their...

Rangers sign Yogan to entry level contract

The gents at Capgeek have the scoop that the Rangers have signed prospect Andrew Yogan to an entry level deal. The deal is a standard two-way, three-year ELC worth with a $655,000 NHL cap hit. The deal itself includes $80,000 per year of signing bonuses, and a base salaries of $630,000, $655,000, and $680,000 over the life of the deal. If Yogan remains in the AHL, he will make $55...

Rangers Need To ‘Clean Up’ Their Game

from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, The Rangers claim to have problems in just about every area of their game, which is why they are 5-5 in their past 10 games as the Penguins came on strong. Up front, the Rangers are not one of the most explosive teams in the NHL, even though centre Brad Richards and right winger Marian Gaborik are clicking. Their defensive game needs tightening...

The magic number is 13

The Rangers and Penguins are seemingly locked in what will be an epic battle for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. The Rangers currently lead the Penguins by a single point, both with seven games remaining in the season. While many are panicking about how the Penguins could catch up so quickly (more on that in a second), the Rangers have two distinct advantages...

Rangers tied for NHL's top seed

Ryan Callahan's shootout goal gave New York a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night and lifted the Rangers into a tie atop the NHL standings. The Rangers captain moved in on goalie Jonas Gustavsson and wired a shot top corner in the third round to clinch it. Brad Richards also scored for New York in the shootout. Tim Connolly had Toronto's lone goal...

Video: Gabby, Stepan & McD Discuss Return to Minnesota

Marian Gaborik gives his thoughts on Tuesday night's game at Minnesota, where he spent nine years as the face of the Wild franchise...Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan, who grew up in Minnesota, discuss returning to their hometown tomorrow to take on the Wild...Remember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at nyrfan94@yahoo.com.

Game Preview: New York Rangers vs Minnesota Wild

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Rangers will face-off against the Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center (8:00 p.m.; TV: MSG Network; Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio), to begin a back-to-back road set. The Blueshirts currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, and rank second in the league overall, with a record of 47-21-7 (101 pts). The Rangers [...]

Finding Ways to Win

That has been the story for the New York Rangers all season long and has led them to the top spot not only in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, but also in the entire National Hockey League. The Blueshirts proved once again last night that they can find ways to win without having their best stuff in a 4-3 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It certainly was not...

Video- Key Rangers Discuss Their Team Makeup

Christine Simpson of Sportsnet talks with Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist to get a feel of the Rangers’ season.

Let us not forget

Tuesday when the New York Rangers take on the  Minnesota Wild, it will be the first time that the 2 teams that Derek Boogaard played for will have met on the ice since his passing last May 13th. I for one hope that the teams will find a way to honor the memory of Boogaard the person. If you love hockey then you can't forget the how and why that Derek Boogaard passed away...

Tuesday (3/27/12) Headlines

Bergen Record - John Tortorella tinkering with Rangers lineupBergen Record - Gross: Rangers ignoring the march of the PenguinsNew York Post - Rangers keep watch on PenguinsDaily News - A Wild reunion for GaborikNewsday - Rangers reaching playoff state of mindRemember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at nyrfan94@yahoo.com.

Rangers-Wild Preview

The New York Rangers have spent much of the season leading the Eastern Conference, but their grip on the top seed has become tenuous. Three more games against opponents outside playoff position may provide a vital chance to cushion their advantage. The Rangers look to maintain their first-place status when they face the Minnesota Wild for the only time this season Tuesday night...

Start Time For April 7th Game Against Washington Set For 6:30pm

The New York Rangers announced today that the start time for their regular season finale on Saturday, April 7 against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden has been set for 6:30 p.m.  The Saturday evening matchup will be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network.
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.