The question posed to John Tortorella at his Monday morning press briefing at Madison Square Garden was about which skater would replace the suspended Brandon Prust in the lineup for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Tortorella’s answer? He had no answer.
“I don’t know what my lineup is,” Tortorella said when asked if Stu Bickel could play forward.
Bickel started as a fourth-line forward in the game, ultimately won by the Devils 4-1, before replacing defenseman Michael Del Zotto on the third defense pair with Steve Eminger. He skated 12 shifts for 8:59 of ice time and committed two penalties totaling 12 minutes.
Tortorella ended his news conference by saying, “I don’t know what my lineup would be then,” after he was jokingly asked if Bickel could play in three weeks.
* Brandon Dubinsky has been skating for a couple of days as he recuperates from an injured right foot. Even though Dubinsky struggled offensively during the regular season — he finished with only 10 goals and 34 points in 77 games — the Rangers entered Game 4 averaging 2.18 goals per playoff game.
So how close is Dubinsky to returning to the Rangers’ lineup?
“I’m not sure if you’ve talked to Torts or not. It’s usually a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and for tonight, it’s a ‘no.’ We’ll keep going, keep working on my conditioning, and it’ll keep feeling better and hopefully we’ll get to a place where I can be in the lineup,” Dubinsky told reporters after the Rangers’ optional skate.
Added Tortorella: “I have no update.”
* As expected, coach Pete DeBoer made wholesale adjustments to the Devils lineup, with the most noteworthy change being rookie center Jacob Josefson replacing veteran right wing Petr Sykora.
Sykora had played every game in the regular season and New Jersey’s first 15 playoff games. He totaled four points — two goals and two assists — in the playoff season.
“Sykora’s out and Josefson is in,” DeBoer said Monday morning. “It was tough to shake things up in that I felt we played a solid game,” DeBoer said of Game 3. “What pushed me in this direction is just the availability of another very good player in Josefson. He hadn’t been available up until this point. So he’s available. It’s tough decisions when you’re sitting out Sykora who has played well for us this year and scored some goals. But those are the decisions we have to make.”
Josefson, who finished with nine points in 41 regular season games this season, had not played since April 3 because of a broken wrist. He was plus-one in 12:58 of ice time with two shots on goal, three takeaways and won nine-of-14 faceoffs.
“I thought Josefson coming in gave us some real good minutes, and the Parise line did a really great job,” DeBoer said after the game. “It was a positive tonight, and that was the kind of effort we needed across the board.”
* Tortorella only played Del Zotto for four third-period shifts after Del Zotto committed three giveaways in the first two periods on Monday. The second turnover led to Travis Zajac’s game-winning goal.
Del Zotto finished with an assist (on Ruslan Fedotenko’s goal at 14:55 of the third), two penalty minutes in 11:39 of ice time, and a minus-one rating. He had been averaging 21:53 of ice time per game.
“It was a struggle for him. He hasn’t had many games like that this year,” Tortorella said during his post-game news conference. “We figured we’d take a little pressure off him, just let him watch it, and Michael has gone through a great process. He’s a big part of our club. He’ll bounce back.”
* The Rangers hosted a free viewing party at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Rangers alumni Jeff Beukeboom, Adam Graves, John Vanbiesbrouck and Eddie Giacomin were in attendance. Beukeboom and Graves were teammates on the 1993-94 Stanley Cup championship-winning team.
You can follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman