Bickel impressive in NHL debut

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
10:59
PM ET
There has been little good news lately for the Rangers' injury-ravaged blue line, but defenseman Stu Bickel's NHL debut was an encouraging sign given the recent losses of Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka (foot).

The 25-year-old rookie, called up Sunday, recorded his first NHL point and played 11:40 over 18 shifts. The fact that the 6-4, 207-pound Bickel was on the ice to pick up a helper on Carl Hagelin's shorthanded goal in the third -- he was given 1:17 on the penalty kill -- was evidence enough that coach John Tortorella was pleased with his performance.

"He's such a big man with a long reach, I thought that was important killing penalties, to be in the way," Tortorella said.

What he liked most, however, was Bickel's lack of timidity in approaching his first game up with the big club.

"I just don't think he's afraid," Tortorella said. " I don't think he's afraid to step in and make a difference."
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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