When news broke that Steve Eminger was activated off injured reserve, the assumption was that Stu Bickel would be replaced in the lineup. After all, Bickel played just ten shifts and six minutes in the previous game against the Sabres. However, coach John Tortorella gave us some relatively surprising news, and stated that Bickel would play against the Flyers, and Eminger would remain a healthy scratch for that game.
There were likely many reasons for such a move, and the most obvious one is that Bickel provides some much needed toughness on the blue line with Michael Sauer out of the lineup indefinitely. Eminger is a fine bottom pairing defenseman, but he does not have that snarl that Bickel has. That snarl was much needed yesterday, with the Flyers dressing their goon squad.
What Eminger lacks in toughness, he makes up for in footspeed and overall defensive play. It’s a bit of a give and take when it comes to dressing Eminger or Bickel. Eminger provides some nice overall defense, which is going to be useful against some of the quicker teams in the league. Bickel provides toughness, which is going to be userful against the tougher squads that like to deploy people like Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo.
Eminger’s return gives the Rangers tremendous flexibility that they didn’t have with Jeff Woywitka, and gives Torts some options in his matchups for any given game. It wouldn’t be considered a shocker to see Bickel continue to dress for games like the Flyers, while Eminger dresses for games against smaller and quicker teams. Both have minimal cap hits, so there is no long term damage to the cap in keeping both around.
Plus, keeping them both around creates competition. One will need to be moved when Sauer returns, so keeping them both around creates more incentive to play hard. This is one of those good problems to have.