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Tortorella on Stralman: “When I first saw him, I didn’t like him”

New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 20: Anton Stralman #32 of the New York Rangers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 20, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. The Rangers defeated the Devils 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Any team that played without three starters on defense would likely find ways to struggle. The Rangers have found ways to thrive, instead.

With no Marc Staal, Michael Sauer, Steve Eminger, and Jeff Woywitka - a mix of starters and depth alike - the Rangers have been able to plug in a mix of rookies and journeymen to keep winning. Chief among them is Anton Stralman, a guy that John Tortorella wasn’t exactly a big fan of as Dave Lozo from finds out.

“I didn’t know who the hell he was when we got him,” Tortorella said. “When I first saw him, I didn’t like him.”

Stralman’s reputation before coming to New York was that of an offensive defenseman who was virtually allergic to playing physical hockey. Instead, Stralman has adopted to Tortorella’s ways and stepped up his game all over the ice. Tortorella says that as they’ve given him more to do, the more he’s played the way they want him to both offensively and defensively.

Seeing Stralman fit in better has to be frustrating for both Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs fans alike who saw him struggle with their teams. Now he’s working out well as a guy able to keep the Rangers defense rolling along during a mild injury crisis. Not bad for a guy who was once thought to be too soft to stick in the NHL.