How far will the Rangers get this season?

Staal's Condition Growing Worrisome: Is A Veteran Defenseman Acquisition Coming?

Marc Staal was sent home today

Marc Staal was sent home today

For more from training camp:

Training Camp Roster And 6 Battles To Watch >

Training Camp Opens With "The Test" >

Staal Injury Overshadows Encouraging First Scrimmage >

Scrimmage Lines Provide Strong Clues To John Tortorella's Thinking >

Staal's Condition Growing Worrisome: Is A Veteran Defenseman Acquistion Coming? >


A week ago the biggest issue to be decided in training camp was who would play left wing alongside Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. 

Oh, how times have changed.

The top-line left wing battle figures to continue getting the most attention at camp, but Wojtek Wolski has taken a strong hold of the position and suddenly the defense, which figured to be one of the team’s strengths, is the unit surrounded by uncertainty.

Injury concerns have limited Mike Sauer and Marc Staal and suddenly Coach John Tortorella has revealed that the team is hunting for another blueliner.

Sauer has progressed nicely and seems like he’ll be fine to start the season, but lingering post-concussion-syndrome symptoms have plagued Staal all summer and he was sent him today after reportedly not feeling well.

Losing Staal, the team’s No. 1 defenseman, for any amount of time would be a crushing blow, but is it really time to be searching for a veteran defenseman?

Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Sauer should occupy three of the top four blueline spots to start the season, which leaves Steve Eminger, Michael Del Zotto, Tim Erixon, Brendan Bell, Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek to battle for the remaining roster spots. 

If Staal is indeed going to miss significant time, then as many as four of those six players could be on the opening night roster.  But Tortorella seems intent on adding a veteran to the mix.

Tortorella has called Steve Eminger the best defenseman in scrimmages thus far and it’s getting harder to imagine him being left out of the lineup.  Tim Erixon was a revelation at Traverse City and has continued his strong play at training camp; he too should make the team.  But Tortorella’s comfort level with Del Zotto, Bell, Valentenko and Kundratek may not be very high. Del Zotto could use more time in Connecticut, Valentenko hasn’t been as impressive in camp as he was last year and we’ve heard nary a peep from Bell and Kundratek this week.

So even if Girardi, McDonagh, Sauer, Eminger and Erixon are penciled into the lineup, the team could still need another defenseman or two.

Of course, the crucial component to the blueline formula is Staal’s health.  If Tortorella isn’t satisfied with the play of his blueliners at camp, then bringing in a veteran might be a prudent move.  But if he’s growing increasingly worried that Staal could miss a significant portion of the season, it could become a necessity in a hurry.



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Posted by Kevin Baumer | September 19, 2011 at 05:15 pm

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