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Rangers facing questions on 'D' as opener looms

by Dan Rosen
STOCKHOLM -- If the Rangers can find the right person, it's possible that they will have a new defenseman join them before Friday's season opener here in Sweden's capital city against Los Angeles.
New York placed Stu Bickel and Brendan Bell on waivers Tuesday, and coach John Tortorella said they are searching for help on the blue line in light of Marc Staal not being able to join his teammates here due to headaches stemming from post-concussion symptoms.
What makes the Rangers' task difficult is their current location. If they were opening the season in North America, it would be easier for them to either sign, trade for or claim a defenseman off waivers and have him ready to go by Friday.
The eight-hour flight and six-hour time change from New York makes getting someone here and up to speed by Friday a difficult task unless the Rangers make a move with Buffalo, Los Angeles or Anaheim -- the other three teams currently in Europe for the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere.
Ex-Rangers Paul Mara and Bryan McCabe are still available. Matt Walker, Nathan Oystrick and Oskars Bartulis were all placed on waivers Tuesday by their respective clubs.
"We've had conversations today," Tortorella said. "I think it has to happen pretty quickly if it does, and it could. I don't know. With the uncertainty of Marc, we're certainly looking to try to help us there. We'll see what happens."
Tortorella confirmed that Michael Sauer, who hasn't played since spraining his right shoulder Sept. 26 in Philadelphia, is healthy and should be in the lineup Friday.
However, he expressed a serious lack of confidence in using either Bell or Bickel, who has never played in a regular-season NHL game.
It's possible (some would say likely) that both Bell and Bickel clear waivers and remain on the active roster, but if that happens and the Rangers don't add a defenseman from the outside, one of the two will have to play Friday against the Kings and Saturday against Anaheim.
"I've got to be honest with you, I have my concerns," Tortorella said. "I think Bick has had a very good camp; (Monday) night he really struggled. Bell has been fair, but again we're, as a lot of teams are, trying to upgrade their D. I don't say that to put a negative on them, but you always have to try to make your team better and we're looking."
If they do add someone, Tortorella doesn't expect him to come in and play a top-four role, meaning either Michael Del Zotto or Steve Eminger will join Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Sauer in the top-four.
"Michael has had a good camp and I think the Eminger signing this summer was a very important one for the reason we're in right now," Tortorella said. "If we're going to bump them down to a five-six position to try to get a top four, that's a stretch, that's a stretch."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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