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Decisions, changes unavoidable as defense corps gets healthy

Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers

Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers skates against Maxime Talbot #27 and Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers against the Philadelphia Flyers. (Jan. 2, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

With Marc Staal back with "a clear head", according to his comments today, coach John Tortorella has some interesting decisions with his nine-man D corps now and down the road.

Okay, eight-man, because Steve Eminger (separated shoulder) remains out. But no more than seven will stick as the season rolls on,

The left side is stacked: Ryan McDonagh, Staal (although he may not yet be able to play 20 minutes every night) and Michael Del Zotto. Jeff Woywitka, a lefty, is the odd man out on that side, and could be waived/reassigned.

Of the righties, it's Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Stu Bickel, al least until righty Michael Sauer, who was working out today, returns from a concussion.

Because Eminger, a natural righty, has played both right and left sides, it makes sense for him to be the 6-7th D when healthy again. Which leaves Stralman and Bickel as potential reassignments. Bickel is the more rugged player, but one with far less NHL experience than Stralman, who is quicker moving the puck.

Short term, does the Staal-Girardi pairing resume? Or does McDonagh stay with Girardi and Staal work back in with Sauer? In several weeks, the depth chart could be: 

Del Zotto-Eminger

Stralman or Bickel

With Eminger healthy, Woywitka and either Bickel or Stralman will be elsewhere than Manhattan. And Tim Erixon will continue to gain experience in Hartford. Those are some pretty decent callups available....

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