Whether you agree with the suspension or not, Brandon Prust will not be playing in tonight’s Game 4 against the Devils. With the opportunity to build a two game lead, the Rangers will be without one of their warriors and top penalty killers. It’s a blow, but not a blow that can’t be overcome. Unlike with Carl Hagelin, the Rangers have a few options readily available to replace Prust for the one game ban.
Option 1: Brandon Dubinsky
This option is the best option for the Rangers. With Dubi cleared for contact and partaking in optional skates, he is on the cusp of returning to action. It has to be assumed that if Dubi can play, then he will play. Dubi would be a perfect fit to replace Prust, as Dubi can slide in quietly to a fourth line role for this game, and ease back into playoff hockey. Plus, if Dubi comes back, the penalty kill won’t suffer too much with Prust out.
Option 2: Insert Stu Bickel at forward
While not the best option, this is probably the most likely option for the Rangers if Dubinsky can’t go. Plain and simple, it doesn’t involve dressing anyone that hasn’t played in the playoffs before, and it doesn’t necessarily weaken the fourth line terribly. Bickel has had his face palm moments, but he’s proved he can be a competent forward in limited ice time. The penalty kill does take a blow if the Rangers go with this option.
Option 3: Insert Steve Eminger at forward, dress Bickel on defense
Same thing as above, just with Eminger and Bickel switched. Same weaknesses too.
Option 4: Dress John Scott
Unless the Devils dress one of Cam Janssen or Eric Boulton, we likely won’t see Scott at all during this series, especially since he is reportedly out of shape. The Devils would love to see Scott dress, especially with the home ice matchup, and get their top guys out there against him.
Option 5: Dress one of the call ups
Let’s be blunt for a second. The Rangers won’t be dressing J.T. Miller. It’s not happening.
They won’t burn a year of his ELC and risk not being able to return him to the OHL next year. They can’t, he wasn’t on the reserve list (Thanks Ray). So that leaves Casey Wellman or Kris Newbury to dress, if the Rangers go this route. Newbury is the more likely candidate to dress if the Rangers go this route, and he’s proven he can be serviceable as a fourth line player. As a temporary player, I’d like this option over John Scott, but the first three options would be better moves than this one.
Now to answer questions about why Mats Zuccarello isn’t included as an option: He’s hurt, and hasn’t been cleared for contact. So he’s not an option.
Personally, I’m hoping Dubi is able to play, because the Rangers essentially get an upgrade at the position for a game, then get another upgrade once Prust returns. But, assuming Dubi can’t go, then inserting Bickel at forward is likely the best bet for the Rangers. It’s something they’ve done in the past, and are comfortable doing on a short-term basis.