Los Angeles Kings's Dustin Brown (L) vies against New York...

Los Angeles Kings's Dustin Brown (L) vies against New York Rangers's Brandon Dubinsky (R) during their ice hockey NHL season opener game at the Globe Arena. (Oct. 7, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

The Rangers' stalled offense, with only 14 goals in seven games, won't be rejuvenated solely by the imminent return of defenseman Michael Sauer, who likely will play in Thursday's home opener after missing five games with an injured shoulder.

The secondary scorers will have to start producing.

Ruslan Fedotenko, installed on the power play and the second line with Brandon Dubinsky moving to center, had his first goal and an assist in Winnipeg on Monday and just missed an earlier opportunity on a deflection that slid past the post. "On the first one, the puck was rolling and I could only get the tip of the blade on it," Fedotenko said.

He also drew a penalty on a breakaway that led to Ryan Callahan's power-play goal. "I thought Feds was one of our best forwards," coach John Tortorella said.

But Dubinsky (24), Derek Stepan (21) and Artem Anisimov (18), who totaled 63 goals last season, have none. If a team bottles up Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards (who had none of the 17 shots in the 2-1 win in Winnipeg), the second tier has to be effective.

After scoring once in six games, the power play had two goals and seemed to pass better. Yet as Tortorella said: "The power plays were [Brian] Boyle, Fedotenko and Cally. They're not the guys you were hoping to do something."

In a move that signaled Sauer's return to health, Brendan Bell was assigned Tuesday to the AHL. During the four-game trek through Western Canada, Sauer participated in practices and the morning skates, first shooting gingerly, then increasing in intensity.

On Monday, the 24-year-old said he was waiting for the green light to begin contact drills. They presumably will begin Wednesday when the Rangers hit the Garden ice for the first time since April for a practice that will kick off a six-game homestand.

Ryan McDonagh, who has moved up to partner with Dan Girardi in Marc Staal's absence, and Sauer, who was a plus-20, were an effective second pair last season. The 6-3 Sauer, a righthanded shot who had three goals and 15 points in 75 games, is expected to join lefty Michael Del Zotto on the second pair.

Sauer's return would add a piece to the defensive jigsaw puzzle that has a huge chunk missing in Staal, who is resting and being treated for concussion-related headaches.

Bell was signed as a free agent after playing last season in the Swiss League. He made his Rangers debut Saturday, playing 11:26 and getting two shots on goal. He was a minus-1, losing a puck that led to an Oilers goal.

More Rangers