With 15 forwards on the roster, two of which are injured, the Rangers are going to face many difficult questions once everyone is healthy. One of those questions was answered when Chris Drury was removed from LTIR, and the Rangers sent Tim Kennedy to the AHL. Kennedy had already cleared waivers, and the Rangers needed to get to 23 active skaters, so it was a logical choice between him and Todd White, who also has cleared waivers. White provides more potential offensively, which is probably why he was kept around a little longer.
Erik Christensen’s injury will not require a trip to LTIR, but when he is ready to return, the question of who will sit for him becomes a prevailing issue. The second and third lines are clicking so well that coach John Tortorella refused to break them up when Christensen was hurt and Drury returned. With Drury slated to start on the top line with Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov on Friday, the Rangers are showing confidence in both their captain and their middle two lines. If Drury is successful in his role as top line center, proving to be the best case scenario, then Christensen could find himself a healthy scratch for many games. It’s been just two regular season games, but the line of Frolov-Christensen-Gaborik struggled in the preseason as well. Maybe a new center is just what the doctor ordered for this line.
In the natural progression of thinking, what happens if Drury doesn’t work out on the top line? The Rangers are not likely to bench their captain, so the middle two lines, which have looked so good the past two games, are going to have to be split up to some capacity. The easiest move for the Rangers would be moving Derek Stepan to the top line, where he clicked with the Frolov/Gaborik combination in the preseason. This would enable Drury to slide into the third line center role. Of course, this leaves Christensen on the outside looking in. Another option is to move Dubinsky to top line center, and slide Drury into the second line LW slot, but that is unlikely, as Tortorella has been very adamant about keeping Dubinsky on the wing.
Where to play Drury isn’t the only question the Rangers have. When Vinny Prospal returns from his injury (IF he returns from his injury), the Rangers are going to need to send another forward to Hartford, likely Todd White. The Rangers are also going to need to find a place for Prospal to play. In the preseason, Prospal was slated to play one game centering the Frolov/Gaborik combination, but that was nixed due to Prospal’s injury. If Drury doesn’t work out in that role, it’s likely Prospal would be fitted into that role as an experiment. If this works, then it’s just a matter of finding a spot for Drury, which is easier said than done.
Of course, what happens if neither Prospal or Drury click with the combination of Frolov and Gaborik? Again, it is likely that we will see Stepan take over that role, but then where do you slide the two veterans? Do you slide Prospal into Stepan’s spot, and Drury to the fourth line? Do you slide them both into the top nine? Who gets scratched? Who gets moved off these lines? There are plenty of questions regarding the Rangers offensive lineup going forward, but at least for now, the Rangers seem to be scoring at will, something they couldn’t do last season. The forward situation is going to be something to keep your eyes on going forward, as for the first time in a while, the Rangers have many options, and it is tough to argue with any option chosen.