GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Anton Stralman may not appear to be a crucial part of the Rangers defense, but his likely absence in Thursday's Game 4 will certainly be felt.
Stralman left Game 3 after the second period following a hard hit from the Bruins' Milan Lucic with 6:54 remaining in the second, and it was perhaps no coincidence that the shorthanded Rangers defense corps surrendered a 1-0 lead in that crucial loss on Tuesday.
"Losing Stralsy's a big blow," John Tortorella said after an optional Rangers practice Wednesday, one in which Stralman did not participate. "He puts himself in a situation there where he's playing in an area and trying to make a play, and he's hurt. He's done that right through the playoffs here. To a defense that is lacking a little depth right now, it hurts us."
Marc Staal (eye) was on the ice, as he's been for the last several days, but there is no indication he is any closer to returning. So it is likely that Matt Gilroy, who has played only once since March 12, will step in as the sixth defenseman.
Chris Kreider, who took a stick to the face in the third period of Game 3 and did not return, also sat out Wednesday's practice. But Kreider has not played major minutes; Stralman, paired with either Ryan McDonagh or Michael Del Zotto, had been playing 20 minutes a night in the postseason.
He played one shift after the hit and was hopeful to keep playing into the third, but the team's medical staff sat him down with the undisclosed injury.
"He's such a mobile skater and that's huge as a defenseman," McDonagh said. "He's been exceptional in the playoffs and we hope he's back."
Without Stralman, Steve Eminger likely will move up to work with Del Zotto. McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Del Zotto will get the bulk of the work in Game 4 -- and beyond, if the Rangers can stave off elimination and Stralman can't return.
Regardless of who's in the lineup, the Rangers defense has to be better at closing out Bruins forwards inside the Rangers' zone.
"It comes down to, listen, we're 0-3. There's no sense of feeling pressure," Tortorella said. "Players that get to play tomorrow, and play more minutes than maybe they're used to, grab a hold of it. Grab a hold of it and let it happen. If you lose, you're done. So that's what I'm hoping for and what I believe we'll get from some of our guys."