As long as Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller are out of the lineup, someone is going to have to play the point on that second power-play unit for the Rangers. For now, that guy looks to be Island Park native Anthony Bitetto.
Bitetto was coach David Quinn’s choice for the assignment in the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers on Thursday night in Philadelphia, and he could be back there Saturday afternoon when the Rangers continue their road trip in Washington.
According to Quinn, the status of Miller, who has missed the last two games with an upper- body injury, won’t be determined until just before the 12:30 p.m. faceoff. If Miller can’t go, Bitetto likely will get to reprise his role as power-play quarterback.
With Trouba (broken thumb) and Miller out Thursday, Adam Fox was the only natural power- play point man in the lineup. Quinn could have had Fox, who runs the first unit, stay on for the entire power play, or he could have used the five-forward look he tried a few times a couple of years ago. Or he could have played "Eenie-meenie-miney-mo’’ with the other five defensemen dressed that night: Bitetto, Ryan Lindgren, Brendan Smith, Libor Hajek and Jack Johnson.
Ultimately, the coach chose Bitetto, who has three goals in 190 NHL games, for the role.
"Well, he’s got pretty good puck skills [and] he’s got a great shot,’’ Quinn said Friday when asked why he picked Bitetto. "It’s just something that we felt comfortable doing.’’
Bitetto, who signed a two-year, $1.475 million free-agent contract with the Rangers to be a depth defenseman, earned himself a secondary assist on Colin Blackwell’s power-play goal in the second period that tied the score at 1. It was the Rangers’ first power- play goal in six games.
Besides the assist, Bitetto, 30, earned praise for his solid play in the game, and in the seven games he’s played since entering the lineup after Tony DeAngelo was kicked off the team Feb. 1. Bitetto has quickly become a popular player in the locker room and on the bench.
"Bitetto is always going,’’ Smith said Thursday. "He’s always fiery, and he’s keeping that energy high. And teams need that because if it’s too quiet, you get down. And you can’t have that. So that’s a little bit of a leadership thing, or more of a vet thing. And we need that.’’
Notes & quotes: Igor Shesterkin will start in goal Saturday, Quinn said. Shesterkin (3-5-1, 2.36 goals-against average, .918 save percentage) played well but took the loss Tuesday against the Devils and has lost his last three starts . . . With DeAngelo gone and Trouba out, Fox is the only righthanded-shooting defenseman on the roster, but Quinn said there currently are no plans to call up a righthanded shooter from the minor leagues. "That’s something we talk about all the time, from an organizational standpoint, about calling people up,’’ Quinn said. "But as of right now, we’re gonna sit back.’’