By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports
It does not sound like Anton Stralman will be in the lineup as the New York Rangers try to stay alive Thursday against Boston.
Stralman played one shift after being hit by Bruins forward Milan Lucic in the second period of Game 3, leaving the Rangers down two top-four defencemen unless Marc Staal, who was on the ice for an optional practice Wednesday, can play in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET).
Staal, who has suffered blurred vision since getting hit with a deflection on March 5, played Game 3 of the Washington series before having to come out of the lineup again.
"Losing Stralsy is a big blow to us, to a defence that's lacking a little depth right now," said Rangers coach John Tortorella.
Either Matt Gilroy or, possibly Roman Hamrlik, will dress in place of Stralman, but the level of confidence in either by Tortorella will be limited, making his belief in John Moore and Steve Eminger the more critical concern.
Eminger, who becomes a top-four player in a pairing with Michael Del Zotto unless Tortorella decides to re-split Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, played 18 minutes in Game 3. Moore was on the ice for 12.
It's not the easiest spot for Staal to come back or for reserves to have their involvement elevated. Then again at this stage they don't have to worry about getting benched or blowing the series, right?
"Listen, we're 0-3," said Tortorella. "Crap, if you lose, you're done.
"There's no sense of feeling pressure, the players that get to play tomorrow and play more minutes than maybe they're used to, grab a hold of it and let it happen. That's what I'm hoping for and I believe we will get it from some of our guys."
He didn't say which ones.
Bruins defenceman Dennis Seidenberg, who skated again along with the Wade Redden Wednesday, declared himself possible for Game 4.
"There's a chance for sure," said Seidenberg. "But you don't want to come back too early.
"We'll see how it feels tomorrow and go from there."
Seidenberg did not, however, provide a plausible rationale for pulling any one of three rookies who are playing well in a series his team leads 3-0. He will go back into the lineup in next round, unless this one takes a turn.
Neither did coach Claude Julien, whose club may have played its best game of the season in beating the Rangers far worse in Game 3 than the 2-1 score suggested.
A long way back, but not long ago
Sixteen members of the Bruins were on the 2009-10 team that became only the third in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead, losing a three-goal lead in Game 7 as well against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bruins appeared so scarred by the experience that the next year, they finished off a sweep of Philadelphia with an 8-1 win and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
"You learn from the past but you live in the moment," said head coach Claude Julien after Wednesday's optional skate at Madison Square Garden in New York. "You don't live in the past.
"Right now we're living in the moment and I like where our team is right now in attitude and approach. We're certainly not looking at it like a lot of people who are trying to find reasons to give New York hope, saying, 'Listen, these guys have done this, they've had trouble doing this.'
"We're not even going there. We're looking at the present right now and the present is getting prepared to play a real good game tomorrow, like the one we played [Wednesday] night."
Since few Rangers who came from 2-0 and 4-3 holes the last round to beat Washington were available after an optional practice Wednesday, the clutch availability became the injured Darroll Powe, who played on that Flyers team that came all the way back. So did Rangers fourth-liner Arron Asham.
"You've got to try to win every shift," said Powe, who is skating and conceivably could return for Game 4. "That's how you're going to get back in the series.
"I mean, you win that one game and things start to change. After that you worry about the next game and you realize as you keep going your confidence builds and grows and you see the other side kind of going the other way. We can't do it without a big next game.
"There are a lot of similarities [to those Flyers], yeah, in terms of personnel and how the potential is on this team. It's a good group of guys, a close group of guys, guys that are willing to work hard and do the little things to win hockey games.
"It's never a good feeling coming into the rink when you're down 3-0, but you have to put those feelings aside and focus on the task at hand. It doesn't do yourself any good by feeling sorry for yourself or looking back in the past at what could have been."
A unit, not spare parts
Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, and Gregory Campbell, the Bruins fourth line that scored both third-period goals to pull out Game 3, have been together for three seasons, highly uncommon for what usually are the sparest parts on a team.
Thornton, Paille and Campbell have moved up to other lines in times of injuries, of course, but Julien has no desire to put them in other roles.
"That's why I don't move my lines around as much, because I believe in chemistry," said the coach. "That's just the way I am.
"A lot of times patience and chemistry will offer you a lot. Sometimes it doesn't, but on many of the right occasions it does. For three years those three guys have learned about their strengths, and where to be in certain situations.
"Even when you look at their forecheck, how they rotate through it is pretty amazing. That's why they spend so much time in the offensive zone, because there's a second and a third layer to keep that puck in."
Follow Jay Greenberg on Twitter @ScribeJG
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