The New York Rangers have excelled this season despite the absence of top defenseman Marc Staal since training camp due to problems stemming from a concussion suffered last season. That blue line will be put to the test yet again, at least for one game.
Michael Sauer, a fixture on the Rangers' second defense pairing for the past two seasons, will not play against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday after absorbing a massive hit from Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf on Monday. Rangers coach John Tortorella said Wednesday that Sauer is considered day-to-day with a concussion.
Sauer was caught with his head down by Phaneuf late in third period. The problem was exacerbated as Sauer, who lost his helmet because of the collision, hit the back of his head against the boards as he fell to the ice.
The Rangers will use Steve Eminger along with Michael Del Zotto as their No. 2 defense pairing, with Anton Stralman and Jeff Woywitka filling out the back end.
“It’s tough,” Del Zotto told Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record. “We’re missing Marc and he’s such a key component to the team because he plays in all situations. It’s a hole in our back end and nobody’s going to replace him. Now Sauer’s gone, too. It’s an opportunity for guys to step up.”
The 24-year-old Sauer enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign in 2010-11, with 3 goals, 12 assists and a plus-20 rating in 76 games. He has been steady again this season, with a goal, 2 assists and a plus-9 in 19 games.