The first shot at replacing Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan, who will miss three to four weeks with a broken thumb, goes to Taylor Pyatt. How long that will last is up to Pyatt, who has no points in the first six games.
Pyatt skated on the top line with Derick Brassard and Brad Richards and also will slide into Callahan's slot on the first power-play unit against the Devils in Newark Saturday night.
"Looking at how Brass' line had some success, a lot of it came from cycling and down low in the other team's end . . . Taylor can do that," said coach Alain Vigneault, who coached the 6-4, 227-pound forward when he contributed 23 and 16 goals in 2006-07 and 2007-08 for the Vancouver Canucks. "He's a big body who can protect the puck and take the puck to the net. And with the guys we had available, he was probably our best-suited guy to come in there with the cycle and net presence that Cally was bringing to that line."
Callahan has provided offense, with three goals in the past two games, and Pyatt, who scored only six goals last season, understands that someone must fill the gap. "I know I've got to find a way to produce," said Pyatt, who has played about 15 minutes a game on the lower lines and on the penalty kill. "Do the grunt work. Try to get around the net, win battles, be around the puck . . . I'm getting an opportunity with two good players."
With Vancouver, Pyatt skated at times with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Vigneault said he "talked to Taylor about that today . . . When he did play with the twins, he was a good net presence, he was good on the cycle. That's what I'm hoping for."
Veteran Darroll Powe, who was recalled from Hartford, is the other piece being tested to replace Callahan, who was not available to speak with the media Friday. "We're already short on penalty-killers, and we thought Powe had a really strong training camp," Vigneault said. Callahan was averaging 2:24 on the power play and 1:36 shorthanded.
Notes & quotes: Derek Stepan, who missed camp in a contract stalemate, is improving daily, Vigneault said, and estimates that "he's at about 75 percent from where his game can be." Stepan was centering a second line with J.T. Miller and Mats Zuccarello . . . Vigneault was to visit Hartford to watch the Wolf Pack Friday night. He said coach Ken Gernander told him Chris Kreider was "using his tools and playing well. He's going to continue to improve and at some point we're going to need him and he's going to be ready for us." . . . G Cam Talbot was scheduled to play Friday night and Saturday night and probably Wednesday for the Wolf Pack, Vigneault said, while 6-8 Jason Missiaen serves as Henrik Lundqvist's backup. A decision by goalie Martin Biron, 36, who was waived and unclaimed, on whether to retire is expected "soon," a team spokesman said.