Well, it's what we feared, Rangers fans. John Tortorella confirmed at practice today that Michael Sauer has been diagnosed with a concussion and is officially listed as day-to-day. Sauer is at the very least out for tomorrow's game, although the Rangers aren't expected to recall another defenseman from the Connecticut Whale. That means Anton Stralman will be in the lineup for just the second time this season and will be paired on the 3rd defense pairing with Jeff Woywitka, while Steve Eminger will move up to the second pairing with Michael Del Zotto (who, by the way, practiced today and is fine after briefly leaving the game in the third period on Monday after going head first into the boards while trying to touch up for an icing).
“He was diagnosed with a concussion,” Tortorella said. “I don’t know what grade. He’s day to day.”
Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Rangers, and was most fans' biggest fear when Sauer took a nasty (but clean) hit from Dion Phaneuf in the third period of Monday's game against the Maple Leafs. Michael Sauer has been a huge part of the Rangers' defense this season, especially since the Rangers haven't had Marc Staal all year, either. As we've seen with Staal's recovery process, it's totally up in the air when we can expect to see Sauer again. For all we know he may feel fine today and tomorrow and wake up with a splitting headache on Friday. There's just no way to predict the recovery from a concussion since everyone is different.
Based on Marc Staal's comments last week, I'd say that best case scenario he's still at least a month away from returning (assuming he continues to be free of symptoms from his concussion), so the Rangers will definitely need Anton Stralman, Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger to step up big time with the absence of Michael Sauer. I'm sure Glen Sather will be working the phones to try and bring in another defenseman, but who knows if and when the Rangers will be available to upgrade there. I'll have to look more later at some possible trade/waiver targets, though I wouldn't put it past Sather to swing some type of deal with his buddy Don Maloney in Phoenix if he feels there's a a fair deal to be made.
Sauer's injury comes at a terrible time for the Rangers, too. They play 12 more games between now and Dec. 30 (including two sets of back-to-back games) and the biggest break between games during that stretch is three off days. The Rangers will have their work cut out for them, but John Tortorella definitely won't let them use Sauer's absence as an excuse.