Defenseman Stu Bickel, who played as a spare forward several times last season, was back up front against the Bruins Wednesday night because Arron Asham was sidelined with a groin strain.

"I need to be prepared to play both," Bickel said after the morning skate. "It doesn't affect my mental preparation. I bring the same elements to the table. I'm a d-man and that comes more natural to me, but I just want to play."

Bickel, who played just 5:30 on Saturday in Boston but 14:15 on Sunday against the Penguins, was replaced on the third defensive pair by Steve Eminger, who made his season debut. Eminger was 2-3-5 in 42 games last season, and signed a one-year contract last summer.


Big guns together

With a line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash starting Wednesday night, John Tortorella conceded that the offense would "lose a little bit of balance, but there has been only one guy playing -- Nash. If you put them all together, you're really front-loading. We'll see how that goes."

advertisement | advertise on newsday


Ice chips

Matt Gilroy was a healthy scratch for the third straight game . . . Flyers center Brayden Schenn was suspended for one game and will sit out Thursday night against the Rangers. Scott Hartnell also is out with a foot injury.


Opener a TV hit

The Rangers-Bruins opener Saturday on MSG averaged 2.88 percent of New York area homes, the network's highest-rated regular-season Rangers game since a game against the Hartford Whalers in 1995. It was the network's fourth-highest-rated Rangers game since it began tracking household data in 1989-90.