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So Who Will Sit for Shanahan?

Gulitti's got a low down on the doings down in Columbus. Shanahan practiced with the team but he will not play tomorrow. However, what is interesting is that A) he could very well play before the All Star Break, giving him 3 possible games to play in and B) Sutter hasn't decided who will sit out for when Shanahan plays. And as indicated by Mike Rupp in Chere's coverage of the same practice, neither do the players:

"I haven't heard anything," Rupp said. "It's kind of a cliche, but I can only control what I can control. I want to be part of the team. We've got a great group of guys.

"Management's responsibility is to do everything in their power to improve the team and this (signing Shanahan) is a step to bump us to an elite group."

Let's consider, for the sake of argument and because the Devils don't play until tomorrow, that Shanahan does play a game before the Devils get a well-deserved rest. Let's also assume the Devils don't make a trade, which would be a big surprise with so many games coming in a short while prior to a long break. Clearly, the Devils aren't going to go with 5 defensemen in a game. That would be all kinds of messed up. So a forward has to sit. I've mentioned Mike Rupp and Jay Pandolfo as possible scratches because I really don't see who else Sutter could justifiably sit. The first two lines are untouchable. Brian Rolston is starting to come into his own with 5 points in the last 7 games, he's not sitting. Bobby Holik just wins faceoffs and crushes people, he's not sitting. David Clarkson is a nice blend of skill and grit and he's not going to site. John Madden has been more effective as of late or at least there, and that has made the difference.

So we're left with Pandolfo and Rupp.

Pandolfo has not been the shutdown winger he was in his last few seasons. After injury cut short what could have been his best offensive season in the NHL, he's back to his standard minimal production. Which is normally fine because he's a checker. But when that isn't going as amazingly as we're used to, it's troublesome. To be fair, he still gets time on the PK units and as of late, they've been effective. By extension, so has Pandolfo. I think that alone could make the difference - Pandolfo can play that additional spot.

Then there's Rupp. He's a hitter, second on the team in hits with 73. He's big at 6'5" and 230 lbs. He can play center or wing. He doesn't bring much to the table other than hits, a shot per game, and some pain. On the other hand, he doesn't take much from the table either. He doesn't complain if he's part of the bench being shortened, but he's good for 8-10 minutes a night. What benefits Rupp is that he's generally consistent and he's not afraid to get dirty.

Personally, given that the plan is that Shanahan would be a full time player with some special teams work, I think Pandolfo would likely sit first because he hasn't been as good at what he normally does best. Moreover, having him scratched first could fire him up when he does see the ice. I really don't think either one will sit out for long. Like what Sutter did with 9 defensemen last season, he'll likely rotate Rupp and Pandolfo as he sees fit and they'd come in relief should injury take out a forward. Moreover, regardless of who sits, Shanahan will likely be playing on the fourth line and then eased into each unit as he gets that rust off. Still, it'll be telling as to who Sutter scratches first. I'll leave this to a poll to get your opinon on the matter at hand: