With Christensen Out, Huge Opportunities for Multiple PlayersDecember 31, 2010, by
Despite it being one player with marginal impact going down, the injury to Erik Christensen will give significant chance for players in vastly different situations for the next 4-6 weeks. The first and most obvious beneficiary is Dale Weise. Weise has proven over the last season and a half in the AHL that he has NHL talent both physically and skill wise. Scorer of 28 goals last year – on a losing Hartford side – the big winger came back after injury to return to scoring form for Connecticut this year. Having made an impressive NHL debut this year Weise will get regular NHL time for the next month or so and he deserves it. Weise brings the aforementioned size and aggression and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves or crash the net, qualities that will help ease any transition phase he may face in NY. However it is a big stage in Weise’s career. Once considered a marginal prospect Weise may cement his place in the line up or prove that he is merely an NHL fill-in. Indeed, Weise may be at a cross road given the forward depth and talent that is on its way over the next 12 months. However should he take his opportunity, get involved offensively and demand he be given ice time Weise may become a cheap and permanent fixture in the bottom six. It’s up to him Weise to make himself irreplaceable.
The second player with the increased opportunity is Mats Zuccarello. The little Norwegian has had a relatively solid start to life in the NHL but his ice time was likely to be carefully managed while he acclimatised to the big league but with a skilled forward now out of the line up Zuccarello becomes even more critical. Likely the only forward that offers the same shootout skill that Christensen could and given his much publicised talent the Norwegian winger will likely get thrust into a prominent role immediately. It will be interesting to see how the winger responds and whether he can do so consistently at this stage of his career already. With Callahan and Christensen out and Prospal yet to return Zuccarello, like Weise, has an opportunity to cement a spot in the line up but in this case a more prominent one. Tortorella has recently admitted the need to infuse the roster with more natural talent and he noted the little winger as the source of the desired skill. With plenty of minutes on offer if the winger can be an offensive contributor then he likely has a spot to keep. Unlike Weise however Zuccarello can play with no risk on his part. He knows there’s significant investment on the Rangers part in him and he also knows the Rangers need his talent level. His worst case scenario is more time in Connecticut before a full time call up. Zuccarello doesn’t face any cross roads like Weise may be.
The last player with significant opportunity is Chris Drury. Unlike the two prospects the captain isn’t fighting for his job but is fighting for increased significance. Having looked good at both ends since his return from injury goals have still eluded the veteran center while with Christensen’s absence it’s means a top 6 center spot is vacant. With Drury’s (much needed) skill in the face off circle and a spot at center ice in the top six likely open it could be Drury’s to take. This may also be Drury’s last chance to claim a regular scoring role in the NHL. With his offensive skills in decline and already considered a special teams and defensive leader, Drury will try to use any additional ice time to show he can still be a scorer like his days in Buffalo/ While the Rangers captain faces a different challenge to the two prospects Drury also faces a huge 4-6 week period in his illustrious career.