The New York Rangers saw an infusion of energy and fresh legs when Brandon Dubinsky suited up to play Game 5 at Madison Square Garden against the New Jersey Devils. The team also saw Brandon Prust return from a one-game suspension and play an effective game, scoring his first goal of the playoffs.
Could there be more reinforcements on the horizon?
Andrew Gross of The Record spoke to Mats Zuccarello, who's been skating with the team the past two weeks while recovering from a broken wrist, yesterday after practice.
Here's Zuccarello's response via Twitter:
Zuccarello says he's ready to play if needed.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) May 24, 2012
One could certainly make the case the Rangers desperately need Zuccarello.
Aside from bringing the freshest of legs to an overworked squad, Zuccarello provides pure offensive ability to a team scoring 2.16 goals per game—the lowest number among the playoff teams remaining.
He moves the puck well and has good vision on the ice despite being 5'6''. New York has had trouble getting around the Devils' aggressive forecheck and maintaining puck possession in the offensive zone. Zuccarello's passing skills could help in those areas. Before hurting his wrist, he seemed to help a struggling Rangers power play distribute the puck and become more of a threat.
The case can be made that Zuccarello has no spot on the roster at the present time.
Zuccarello's small frame placed in the tough, physical playoff environment can't give coach John Tortorella much confidence his young Norwegian player could be put in a position to be successful. Plus, there's no room for him to play in the top six. Playing an offensively talented player on the fourth line in limited minutes isn't a recipe for success.
One scenario that could happen is Tortorella going with 13 forwards and five defenseman by inserting Zuccarello and sitting sparsely used Stu Bickel, utilizing the extra forward during power-play time. However, playing with only five defenseman is a risky play, especially if one becomes injured during the game.
For the Rangers, it's good to see their depth players getting healthy. In this case, Zuccarello is ready to be called upon if needed. Although, don't count on him making an appearance in Game 6 tonight.