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As far as the decisions at forward go, Brooks had the following analysis:
With Mats Zuccarello all but certain to start the season with the team, the Rangers have spots open for a pair of spare forwards. Unless Carl Hagelin comes out of nowhere with far more impressive performances in Europe than he’s delivered in his two exhibition outings thus far or Ryan Bourque forces himself into the mix, the candidates are: Sean Avery, who clearly has the highest ceiling of anyone else in the equation; Erik Christensen, whose role has been marginalized by the addition of Brad Richards; and John Mitchell and Dale Weise, both of whom would require waivers in order to be assigned to the AHL Whale.At this point I'd be extremely surprised if Ryan Bourque made the team. This is no slight against Bourque but there is just too much competition for only one or two forward positions and I don't see the Rangers keeping a young player around to be a regular healthy scratch. Hagelin has a better shot at making the roster (the kid is a speed demon), but he too should be considered a long shot.
With Marc Staal sitting out with post-concussion symptoms only Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer are guaranteed regular spots on the blue line. Steve Eminger who was re-signed this summer will also stick with the Rangers, but he may be given a more prominent role unless other moves are made. It's still possible that the Rangers invite someone else to camp (which doesn't look likely at this point), sign a player or made a trade. The Rangers announced on Sunday that Marc Staal would not be traveling with the team to Europe for the pre-season games, but wouldn't rule him out of the opening night lineup. I'd have to guess at this point if Staal is still being held out of games that he's highly unlikely for at least the first few games of the regular season.
With the sudden need for defensemen, Dylan McIlrath who was expected to be returned to his Junior team is left amongst the final group of players. Tortorella told the media on Sunday that McIlrath wasn't yet ready for the NHL. So, unless he does something remarkable in the next few exhibition games, he's likely just along for the ride.
A lot of the decisions on the defense end will hinge upon the health of Marc Staal. What many thought of as the Rangers strength heading into the summer now looks like it could be suspect. I mean, Brendan Bell has seemed like a decent substitute so far, but over the course of the the regular season is a team with Bell playing a prominent role going to be very successful? As for Michael Del Zotto, he was all talk prior to the pre-season about being ready to prove he's ready to play in the NHL and being humbled by his demotion to Hartford last season. But, is he going to be consistent enough to help the team more than harm it?
There are certainly a lot of questions left and not much time to get those answers.
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