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Zuccarello's role minor in Caps series

Jeff Schultz #55 of the Washington Capitals hits

Jeff Schultz #55 of the Washington Capitals hits Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York Rangers into the boards in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center. (April 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Rookie Mats Zuccarello, who got his first taste of NHL playoff hockey in Game 1, was watching from press row Friday night, and coach John Tortorella raised questions about how much he will play in the rest of this series.

At 5-7, Zuccarello was the smallest player on the ice, and played just 7:34 Wednesday, by far the least on both teams.

"The reason I put him in is that he has a chance to make a play," Tortorella said. "He sees the ice very well. I think sometimes . . . whether he can handle the size and the overall consistency of playoff hockey, I'm not sure."

Zuccarello, born in Norway, had starred in the Swedish Elite League and was 6-16-22 in 41 games this season. The 23-year-old was especially useful in shootouts (5-for-9), but that specialty isn't a factor in the postseason, with five-on-five overtime.

"It's been a long year for him as far as up and down [to Hartford, where he was 13-16-29 in 36 games] and learning the new game in North America, the smaller rink, playing in the minors where everybody's chasing you around," Tortorella said. "It's still an open book for him as to where he sits as a National Hockey Leaguer. He makes some plays I don't think some players see. I wasn't sure if I could put him in those situations as we got into the third period and overtime."

Given Tortorella's assessment, the door might be open for a call-up forward with size for the fourth line, perhaps right wing Dale Weise, who played 10 games for the big club this season. Weise (6-2, 206) was 18-20-38 in 47 games in the AHL.

Friday's other healthy scratch was defenseman Steve Eminger, who also didn't dress for Game 1.

New York Sports