On the day that Marian Gaborik, the team’s most talented forward, declared that his separated left shoulder had healed enough to be “good to go” for tomorrow's home game against the Sabres, coach John Tortorella said defenseman Michal Rozsival will miss seven to 10 days with an ailing right shoulder.
“He’s been playing through a really bad shoulder for quite a while and it’s gotten to the point now where he just can’t handle it and he’s worried about hurting the club so he’s out,” said Tortorella, calling it a strain that, as of now, would not require surgery. “People boo him, people moan about him not shooting the puck. He’s had problems shooting because of this shoulder and he’s stuck it out. He’s always stuck it out and played through some injuries. But it’s just gotten so bad he needs to strengthen it.”
The absence of Rozsival, who is averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game and has eight points in 15 games, comes at a time when the Rangers will play six games in the next 10 days and the top four defensemen are playing heavy minutes. No. 5 defenseman Steve Eminger will take Rozsival’s spot and team with Michael Del Zotto. Marc Staal will be partnered with Dan Girardi, and Mike Sauer will pair with Matt Gilroy, a healthy scratch for five games who will have a chance to make up lost ground.
Gaborik, who scored 42 goals and 86 points last season, has missed 12 games and also wants to make up lost ground. After practice, he told Tortorella he was ready to return. "I'm feeling pretty good,” said Gaborik. “It's tough to watch, guys are working hard out there and you can't really help, it's frustrating.” Although his shooting is fine, he said players cannot replicate game contact in practice. “But I feel confident enough to jump back in. I can’t wait forever."
“I like the way he came to me,” said Tortorella. “He wants to play. I’ve stayed away from him. I think the players feel more comfortable talking to trainers about stuff like that. I’m not a big guy about, ‘I’m 100 percent, I’m 95 percent.’ Can you play or not? And Gabby knows that. I think he’ll be up to speed pretty quick.”
Some thoughts: We covered some of this on the chat, but:
In Rozy's absence, I can see Gilroy getting some time on the second PP unit and Sauer on the PK. Tortorella also has to be careful with doling out too many minutes to Staal and Girardi and Del Zotto, though. This is exactly why not having a veteran D (well, outside of Mr. Redden) in Hartford hurts. if Rozsival is out for a longer stretch, a trade or signing will happen.
Tortorella didn;t disclose his thoughts on who would skate with Gaborik. My guess is Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov to begin, although I wonder if Derek Stepan could get a look there. Torts wouldn't dare tinker with Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan and Avery-Boyle-Prust have been a quality forechecking unit. Either White or Boogaard will be scratched against the Sabres and Ruslan Fedotenko is available on four.
About Frolov, who played just 4:09 in the third period against Washington. We had a brief conversation yesterday. He conceded that he was pressing and struggling to adjust, but that changing linemates wasn't a factor. "That happens all the time. I need to play better, shoot more. When you don't score for awhile, you try too hard," he said. "Is it frustrating? Yeah."