Every team in the NHL will have to deal with their share of injuries during the 2011-12 season, but the New York Rangers are being hit hard on defense with injuries right now. Already without Marc Staal (concussion), Michael Sauer missed another day of practice today (shoulder). Sauer has not practiced at all since the team returned from Europe and Andrew Gross tweeted that Sauer is likely to miss tomorrow’s game against the Islanders.
If Sauer does miss the game the Rangers are looking at Del Zotto, Erixon, Woywitka and Eminger as the bottom four defenders in the lineup. Those defensive pairings from practice…
While McDonagh and Girardi will certainly eat a ton of minutes regardless of whether Sauer goes tomorrow, looking at that bottom four against the speed and skill of the Islanders is a scary proposition for the Rangers. Mitigating the loss of Staal is enough to deal with, but being without both Staal and Sauer is a huge blow the Rangers defense corps.
In terms of those four playing tomorrow, pairing Erixon and Del Zotto seems like a recipe for disaster at even strength defensively. Both have played reasonably well in the first two games, but both have their defensive shortcomings at this point so putting the two young defenders together might not be the best move. Del Zotto pairing with Eminger while Woywitka plays with Erixon seems like a more balanced approach, but regardless the loss of Sauer from the lineup would likely be very evident tomorrow.