Head coach John Tortorella needed just 40 words to acknowledge one of the obvious flaws that has plagued his team in this truncated season.
The Rangers are top-heavy.
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“[The trade for Darroll Powe] gives me a little flexibility,” Tortorella said in his mid-afternoon press conference before the Rangers’ 4-3 loss to Winnipeg Tuesday night at the Garden. The loss, the fourth in a row, underscored the organizational lack of depth.
“It’s something that I’ve really done without this year, not just from the [Rick Nash] deal but losing some of those other players [in free agency] in the middle of the lineup. I just haven’t had the flexibility sometimes.”
Icing a team without Arron Asham, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash due to undisclosed injuries, Tortorella mostly kept his lines intact as he had to reconfigure the defense pairings.
Steve Eminger and Dan Girardi were the first pairing while Anton Stralman and Marc Staal made up the second pair. Matt Gilroy and Stu Bickel were the third unit. Even though Girardi and Staal have played together in the past, Tortorella eschewed reuniting the two for what he termed “more balance.”
Without Del Zotto and McDonagh, Tortorella rode his top four. Girardi logged 27:58 of ice time. Staal played 24:38. Stralman recorded a goal and an assist in 23:51. Eminger received 20:33 in his first NHL game action since the 4-1 win over the Islanders on Feb. 7.
Eminger had played 24:31 in four games this season with the Rangers. He played four games with the AHL Connecticut Whale after being sent down on a conditioning stint on Feb. 13. He had a goal and a minus-3 rating in four games with the Whale before being recalled on Feb. 22.
“I thought Emmy had a great game. He played really solid. That’s his game. Simple plays, make a good first pass, play defensively. He did a great job,” Girardi said. “He’s definitely a good professional about his game. He wasn’t playing for a bit. Down in Connecticut for a bit I think he went down there and played hard. [It] showed and he got back here and didn’t miss a step. Fit right in and he had a great game today.”
However, the third pairing of Gilroy (11:54) and Bickel (7:16) received limited minutes. Both were on the ice for Winnipeg’s third goal and did not play much following the marker.
Five minutes and 20 seconds after Ryan Callahan cut the Jets’ lead to 2-1, Bickel was unable to clear the puck from the defensive zone. Grant Clitsome spun off of Bickel before moving the puck along the half boards to Anthony Peluso. Henrik Lundqvist (28 saves) stopped Peluso’s goal-line shot but Olli Jokinen slammed home the second of his two goals. Jokinen had entered the game with three goals and five points in 18 games.
Gilroy only skated five shifts after the goal. Save for one 46 second shift, Bickel did not leave the bench in the third.
“I have to watch the tape,” Tortorella said when asked about the play of the blueline fill-ins. “There was some running around. There was some struggles. We’ll evaluate from there.”
Evander Kane scored twice and Ondrej Pavelec made 30 saves for the Jets. Taylor Pyatt scored his fourth goal of the season in the third period. It was his first goal since Jan. 24.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.