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Posts tagged: Chris Drury

Drury On Fourth Line; White Or Christensen To Be Scratched

As per Arthur Staple, Chris Drury was practicing on the fourth line today between Sean Avery and Erik Christensen/Todd White. Should Drury return, one of Christensen/White will be the healthy scratch to make room. It doesn’t appear that the Rangers will demote White until Derek Boogaard returns from injury, so expect the Rangers to carry 14 forwards for the time being. Believe it or not, the Rangers actually have the cap space to carry Drury without dumping White.

As for the rest of the lines, they remained in tact:

Ruslan Fedotenko-Derek Stepan-Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Alex Frolov-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Sean Avery-Chris Drury-Erik Christensen/Todd White

Drury Back, Decisions Ahead

Although he still has plenty (potentially) to give to the Rangers, with the news of Chris Drury’s pending return – a welcome return at that – Erik Christensen is starring down the barrel of a healthy scratch. Luckily for him, Derek Boogaard doesn’t like to stay healthy. It was telling that during the Rangers demolition of the Caps Christensen only received roughly 11 minutes of ice time even though the game was already won entering the 3rd period. When a game is won early on it’s often a chance for a coach to rest his core players, try and get struggling players going with extended playing time and we saw that to an extent as Frolov got good PP minutes and even Todd White got power play time. Unfortunately for EC, he still didn’t get a ton of minutes during this game.

Drury’s return is a welcome for everyone but Christensen and White, although even more players will be concerned when Vinnie Prospal gets back later this month. Drury is an excellent face off guy, a lead by example type and will naturally help the penalty kill and while his offensive skills are clearly diminished from his Buffalo days he can still be counted on to add skill to the bottom 6 or chip in on a scoring line to some degree. Drury is this team’s undoubted leader – as indicated by Torts – and he’ll play regardless. How much he plays depends on the next game or two as while he looks to get game fitness a lot will depend on the chemistry and success of other lines. The next few games are indeed very important to Drury’s season. We should know quickly where Tortorella wants to use him and it will be key for Drury to show that he can be more than a checking forward who leads the penalty kill. How quickly he gets back up to speed may define Drury’s season.

The next two games are critical for Erik Christensen and arguably his future as a Ranger and perhaps even as an NHL’er. It’s very likely that Todd White will be the first casualty but once Boogaard (and then Prospal) are available other bodies will need to be sacrificed. Looking around the roster the obvious next candidate is EC. Many players such as Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle have taken advantage of the early season absences of key forwards and have made themselves invaluable to the Blueshirt cause. In fact, Brandon Prust may have been the Rangers best forward through November and early December such has been his impact all over the ice. All of this brings us back to EC and his key run of upcoming games. The game against the Pens and the game against the Coyotes may be his last chances to convince as the Rangers will likely go with the most physical side at their disposal for the Flyers game thereafter. Should EC be scratched he need look no further than Matt Gilroy to see how hard it is to get back into the team on a regular basis, even though Gilroy’s play isn’t deserving of a seat in the press box.

With all this being considered EC’s position needs to be assessed. He has obvious ability and flashes it occasionally, to the point where he may be tempting as trade bait, especially when you consider his contract is relatively small. With his ability to play wing and center as well as his talent in the skills competition EC may in fact be playing the next few games as an audition such is his tenuous position on the roster. As Torts indicated, the kids are safe (as they should be) so EC clearly is in a numbers game that looks like one he cannot win. All that makes the next two games huge for Christensen and not just Chris Drury.

Tough Decisions Looming When Drury Returns

For all intents and purposes, Rangers captain Chris Drury has missed the entire season to date with a broken finger. The news came last week that Drury’s return is going to be delayed until at least next week because he is still having trouble gripping a stick. Drury has spent the entire season on long term injured reserve, and thus the Rangers have had some cushion in the salary cap to keep 13 (and sometimes 14) forwards and 7 defensemen with the club. That changes when Drury returns, as he will need to be activated from LTIR, and that cushion disappears.

When that cushion disappears, it is all but a certainty that Todd White will be sent to the Connecticut Whale. White has been waived twice thus far this year, and will likely be waived again in the coming days, as his 30 day window has expired since the last time he was waived. White’s cap hit of $2.375 million clears enough room for the Rangers to get back under the cap when Drury’s $7.05 million cap hit is re-activated. It shouldn’t be a surprise that White will be sent to Hartford, considering the dual waiving and his inability to not only crack the lineup, but remain in the lineup for a consistent period of time.

The demotion of White is the easy decision for the Rangers. The tough decision is deciding who will replace White in the press box once Drury returns. There are a few candidates for the healthy scratch, and there are legitimate reasons for scratching each of them:

  • Derek Boogaard: The Rangers enforcer isn’t exactly the best skater in the world, and he doesn’t bring much to the table other than the intimidation factor. Considering the upcoming schedule against some very skilled teams, it is likely that Boogaard will be scratched for a handful of those games.
  • Alex Frolov: Frolov is doing his best Chris Higgins impression this year. It’s not that he’s been bad, he just can’t seem to score. He has been effective at bringing the puck into the offensive zone, but he always winds up behind the net trying a wrap around. Maybe a trip to the press box for a game or two will remind him to shoot the puck before he gets behind the net.
  • Erik Christensen: Naturally, I’m going to mention Christensen here. Christensen may have 11 points, but 5 of them have come in two games against terrible teams (Edmonton, Islanders). He has just 6 points in the other 26 games he has played this year, and this is with significant time on the top line with Marian Gaborik. Christensen is very skilled, but skilled doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t scoring. The difference between him and Frolov is that Frolov at least plays decent defense.
  • Ruslan Fedotenko: Fedotenko is in the middle of an eight game scoreless drought after netting five points in his previous three games. Fedotenko is another one of those players who does other things to make up for his lack of production, but he does have 11 points this year while playing predominantly on the third line. A game or two as a scratch might wake him up a little bit.
  • Derek Stepan: This one is a long shot, but Stepan could wind up playing in Connecticut as well if Rangers brass decides to go with the old adage of salary over performance. Stepan is on this list because the Rangers history with playing salary over those deserving isn’t pretty. This one is very unlikely, but it’s worth mentioning.

So that I’m not leaving you guys to guess on your own, I think Drury will be re-inserted as a permanent figure in the lineup, and Boogaard and Christensen will be rotating as the healthy scratch. Christensen provides some extra offensive punch against the skilled teams, while Boogaard will definitely be a physical force against teams like the Flyers.

Drury’s Return Delayed

It looks like Chris Drury is going to be out longer than expected. Larry Brooks is reporting that Drury’s broken left index finger is still bothering him, and that he is unable to grip a stick:

“It was not good,” a disappointed Drury said on his way out of the Garden after the Rangers fell 3-1 to the Penguins.

Drury, who was initially scheduled to be out 4-to-6 weeks after re-injuring his finger during the Rangers October 15 home opener against Toronto, will be delayed by at least two weeks:

Still, The Post has learned the captain will be permitted to skate with a stick within the next couple of days before being slowly integrated into practice drills and then contact.

It was estimated that the captain would miss 6-to-8 weeks when he went down. Friday will mark seven weeks to the day.

Despite what fans may think of Drury’s contract and declining offensive production, he is the captain of this team and an integral part of its success. He is probably the best penalty killer on the team, and was one of the best faceoff guys on the team last year. Without him this season, the Rangers penalty killing sits at 82.8% (down from 84.3% last season) and their faceoff success rate sits at 44.7% (down from 49.2% last season).

At first glance, the penalty killing numbers don’t look that bad, but that 2% difference could be one goal at a critical moment that costs the Rangers two points. Even if it’s just a 2% difference, it’s better to have him in the lineup to get back that 2% than have him sitting and having Todd White taking his spot in the lineup. As for faceoffs, that is self explanatory. That extra 5% means a lot in terms of puck possession, killing penalties, and powerplay success.

The Rangers have been dealing with injuries all year, and have played very well despite missing some key pieces for a good portion of the season. Chris Drury is another one of those important pieces that the Rangers need back soon. Even if his offensive production is declining, he will be better than his replacement in the lineup: Todd White. Drury balances out the defensive responsibilities of the bottom six, will help the penalty kill, and will help the faceoff percentage. This team needs Chris Drury, and needs him as soon as possible.

Injury Update: Rozsival and Drury; Stepan To Hartford?

The banged up Rangers got some good news yesterday, despite the loss to the Bruins. Chris Drury, who has been out for pretty much the entire season with a broken finger, began skating again, and his timetable for a return is 2-3 weeks. The inevitable return of Drury poses an interesting question for the Rangers: Who gets scratched? The rotation of Todd White/Derek Boogaard on the fourth line is actually working out, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see White stay. To be perfectly honest, I believe that once Drury returns, Derek Stepan will be sent to Hartford. It is no slight against the kid, but there is no point keeping him with the Rangers if he is going to be playing fourth line minutes. I believe he is still with the club only because the Rangers are so decimated by injuries.

As for Michal Rozsival, who has been out for the past week with a knee injury, his return is slated for next week. Steve Eminger has played very, very well in Rozsival’s absence, bringing a physical game to those playing 20 minutes each contest. If he continues this when Rozsival returns, while presumably being paired with Michael Sauer, then the Rangers defense will be much improved. Unfortunately it looks like Matt Gilroy, who seems to have lost his way in NY (and might benefit from a trade), will be the odd man out when Rozsival returns.

Drury Will Probably Play Friday; Christensen Hurt

Chris Drury, who has missed the entire preseason and the first two games of the regular season with a broken pinky, will likely make his return on Friday when the Rangers have their home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs. His return comes just in time, as it looks like Erik Christensen will be missing time due to a lower body (hamstring or groin) injury sustained in yesterday’s 6-4 loss to the Islanders. Christensen was limited to 32 seconds in the third period due to the injury. The severity of the injury has yet to be determined, but there is a chance Christensen will miss significant time.

If Christensen (cap hit – $800,000) is placed in injured reserve, the Rangers would not need to make any roster moves to accommodate the return of Drury to the lineup. If the injury is less serious, and IR time is not required, then one of Todd White (cap hit – $2.375 million) or Tim Kennedy (cap hit – $550,000) will need to be assigned to Hartford. Both have cleared waivers, and will need to be assigned within the next eight games (the rule is 10 games or 30 days, whichever comes first) before needing to clear waivers again. It’s going to be a tough decision for the Rangers to make, as keeping each one around has its pluses and minuses. It still is not known how the line combos will be affected once Drury returns. Considering the top line of Christensen centering Alex Frolov and Marian Gaborik has produced one of the Rangers ten goals, change might be good for the top line. More news will come, but for now, expect Drury to play and Christensen to sit on Friday night.

What To Do When Chris Drury Returns?

When Chris Drury went down with a broken finger, he inadvertently kept some current Rangers on the roster to replace him in the lineup. Now that he is skating in full gear and shooting again, it seems likely he will return sooner than expected. He will definitely miss tonight’s opener against Buffalo, but there is a strong possibility he will play Monday afternoon against the Islanders. The Rangers have a few roster issues at hand when Drury does return, some are easy decisions, and some are much more difficult.

When Drury is activated off injured reserve, one of Todd White or Tim Kennedy will need to be sent to Hartford. White is the older, more expensive ($2.375 million cap hit), and returning from injury. Those are three things that don’t work in his favor. What does work in his favor is his offensive skill, which could provide useful if Vinny Prospal is out longer than expected. There are positives and negatives of both players sticking around, but once one or both are sent to the AHL, it is more than likely a permanent move. Although both cleared waivers in the offseason, it is extremely unlikely that they would pass through re-entry waivers, at a 50% discount to other teams. Whoever is sent to Hartford is sent there for good. Of course, should Prospal return from injury, this point becomes moot.

Probably the most difficult decision to make for the Rangers is who will be scratched once Drury, who is capable of playing both center and left wing, comes back. The smart money would be on Erik Christensen getting the Petr Prucha treatment, as he had a relatively underwhelming preseason, considering most of his ice time was spent with Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov. It looks like Christensen has one game to prove himself, or else he could find himself watching games from the press box. Another player on thin ice during the summer, but who seems to have earned his spot on the third line, is Sean Avery. Avery, like Wade Redden, was given clear instructions by coach John Tortorella about his role. Avery got the message, but any slip in play could see Avery sitting in the press box. The Rangers could always play the numbers game, like they did with Ryan McDonagh earlier, and send down someone who doesn’t need to clear waivers. Unfortunately, that someone is Derek Stepan.

Once the decision about who to scratch is made, the Rangers then need to re-adjust their lines. It doesn’t appear that Drury will be slotted in as the top line center, should Christensen be the one that is scratched. At that point, does the coach put the weight of a season on the shoulders of rookie Derek Stepan, who clicked with Frolov and Gaborik in the preseason? Does he hand that role to Brandon Dubinsky, who Tortorella believes is better suited on the wing? Once the top line center is decided, then the coach needs to adjust the rest of the combinations. The Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan line looked very good in the preseason, as did the Avery-Stepan-Ruslan Fedotenko combination. Ironically enough, the only combination that seems to be safe from realignment is the fourth line of Derek Boogaard-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust. Of course, they are only safe from the line juggling as long as one of them doesn’t get scratched.

The natural decision here is to platoon a combination of the scratch from the top nine and a fourth line player. By carrying extra forwards, the Rangers give themselves the opportunity to mix and match against opponents. For example, against a more skilled team like Buffalo, the Rangers may want to scratch one of Boogaard or Boyle, and insert a more athletic skater. Against the Flyers, it seems more prudent to dress all three tough guys to counter the mean streak that the Flyers have.

The Rangers don’t necessarily need to keep one player scratched for a prolonged amount of time. The Blueshirts, for the first time in a while, have roster flexibility, and the ability to match up to their opponents strengths and weaknesses. Sure, one player is going to be knocked off the top-nine once Drury returns, but that gives the Rangers team more of a chance to compete with the flexibility that arises. Even more flexibility is given when considering the possible call ups in Hartford, specifically Dale Weise and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen. Many teams would love to have this “problem” of roster flexibility that the Rangers have. They may not have a “#1″ center, but they definitely have the depth behind them to compete this season.

White/Kennedy Clear Waivers; Drury/Prospal On IR

When the Rangers waived centers Todd White and Tim Kennedy yesterday, many assumed that one or both would be claimed, especially Kennedy, who comes very cheap. However, both cleared waivers. Since both have cleared waivers, their salaries ($2.375 for White, $550,000 for Kennedy) are removed from the Rangers cap. The Rangers have 30 days to assign them to the AHL, or else their salaries will be added back to the cap, and they will both need to clear waivers again.

As expected, the Rangers have placed centers Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury on injured reserve. Their salaries will remain on the books, but the Rangers will be allowed to go over the salary cap ceiling, if necessary, by their combined salaries. The total amount the Rangers are allowed to be over the cap is the prorated amount of both players salaries for the number of days spent on IR. With two of the three on ice leaders out, it’s going to be interesting to see who gets the temporary A’s.

Derek Stepan won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg award, as voted on by the Rangers press, for the top rookie in camp. This was probably the easiest vote for the award in history.

What We’ve Learnt So Far?

11 days of camp and 3 games into the pre-season and the Rangers have made two series of roster cuts and have 27 players remaining. So what have we learnt about the state of the Rangers?

Let’s start with the negatives.

Looking at camp it was disappointing to see core players such as Artem Anisimov struggle with the conditioning skates. It was perplexing because it’s been reported that the Russian was training throughout the summer – what gives? Other players who didn’t distinguish themselves during the conditioning included Michael Del Zotto who, like some others, was struggling with cramps and leg pain.

Goaltending beyond that at the NHL level continues to be somewhat of concern. Chad Johnson, who has NHL potential has struggled, letting in soft goals during the exhibition season while Scott Stajcer has let his nerves get to him. Stajcer had a poor first scrimmage including conceding goals on his first three shots faced. Jordan Parise and Cam Talbot didn’t turn heads with their play either. Neither seemed legitimate threats to Johnson for starting/playing time in the AHL.

A sign of a successful NHL team is how a team deals with the opposition’s top lines. The Rangers thus far have struggled to contain the key players during each pre-season contest. The Devils top trio of Parise-Kovalchuk-Zajac scored with ease in both games while the Rangers struggled to keep Zetterberg’s line off the board on Sunday (against Detroit), while Brian Rafalski also did what he wanted offensively in Sunday’s tilt. The Rangers struggled to deal with the puck possession and skill level of the Red Wings.  Although the Rangers haven’t iced a full NHL side yet (it is pre-season after all) they will have to deal with opponents top lines much more effectively when the regular season kicks off.

Drury’s injury is a negative. Drury is on this team regardless and additional offense (compared to last year) from the captain would go a long way in helping the Rangers return to the post season. While conditioning shouldn’t be an issue (he can still bike and do cardio) Drury has missed an opportunity to get in on the scrimmages and pre-season games and re-discover his offensive game. A nice run of pre-season success may have helped Drury’s confidence, however thanks to injury he’s already behind the eight-ball.

So what has gone well?

Read more »

Is Stepan a Problem for Anisimov?

Thankfully this isn’t an issue in the short term but upon Chris Drury’s return from injury and due to the apparent logjam of centers on the roster, will Derek Stepan in particular become a road block in Artem Anisimov’s development?

With Derek Stepan’s impressive start to camp, Brandon Dubinsky, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury all roster certainties and one of Tim Kenney/Eric Christensen/Brian Boyle likely to get the remaining 4th line center job there seems to be a potential issue with getting Artem Anisimov suitable ice time to aid his development. Tortorella has already indicated he may try the captain, Drury in an offensive role (possibly 2nd line center or right wing) while Stepan has a good chance at starting the year centering Alex Frolov and Marian Gaborik on the top line. If Stepan doesn’t get that gig its likely one of Brandon Dubinsky or Vinny Prospal will move up to that line. So, where does the young Russian fit? This is all also ignoring the fact of an excess of wingers (negating the need to move a player such as Drury out wide) as well as Todd White all looking for spots.

Anisimov did an admirable job as a rookie on the 4th line last year and at times displayed his skill and flashed his huge upside while on his way to a solid 28 point rookie campaign. However, it seems like Stepan may be fast tracked into a scoring role, especially if he keeps up the camp standards he has set thus far. Unlike players like Todd White, Tim Kennedy and Chris Drury, Anisimov doesn’t seem to be able to move to the wing and play there. The problem is therefore this; if Stepan is indeed deserving of the top line spot and the 2nd line is filled by one of the other centers, are the Rangers able to play Anisimov in a role that benefits his development and maximise his skills while also prioritising the teams needs?

It may not be an issue right now but Anisimov’s role on the team bears monitoring as camp progresses. Where will he play?