Jordan Staal concerned about ailing brother

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal celebrates after scoring a

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal celebrates after scoring a goal against the Islanders. (Mar. 30, 2010) (Credit: AP)

Jordan Staal knows all too well that no two concussions are alike, not that he has had time to dwell on it.

Staal, a center, has taken on added responsibility. He is a leading reason the Penguins (7-2-2) entered Nassau Coliseum with such steam despite the absences of world-class centers Evgeni Malkin, who returned Tuesday night after missing five games because of a knee injury, and Sidney Crosby, who has not played since early January with a concussion.

Crosby has been cleared for contact and has been practicing, but there is no guarantee about when he will play in a game. Nor is there any consensus over whether the blind-side hit from the Capitals' David Steckel on Jan. 1 was purely accidental.

On the other hand, Staal realizes there clearly was no malice in the hit that gave a concussion to his brother Marc, the Rangers' top defenseman. That was because it came last season from their other brother, Eric, the Hurricanes' captain.

The whole Staal family is sick about it. Entering this week, Eric had a league-worst minus-10 plus/minus rating.

"I feel bad for both of my brothers," Jordan said before scoring an empty-net goal in the Penguins' 3-0 win over the Islanders.

"It's not a great situation, but it happens in games. I think in the playoffs one year, Marc probably hit me harder than Eric hit Marc there. It happens, it's part of the game. Obviously, it's unfortunate Eric wound up taking out Marc. I'm sure Marc will be back soon enough."

Just how soon is anyone's guess. An announcement on Marc's progress was expected while the Rangers were in western Canada last week, but that never occurred. Concussions are like fingerprints: Everyone's is different, as Jordan Staal has seen with Crosby.

"With concussions, you can feel good for a week and then just have a bad day. It's not going to be easy, it's going to be frustrating," Jordan said. "There always is light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it's hard to see, for most guys. But Marc has still got a road ahead of him. He has started to feel better than he has before. It's a long road, it's not easy. Our family will help support him the best we can."

The Penguins' Staal has given it his best, as has everyone on the depleted roster. Coach Dan Bylsma and staff don't allow self-pity. "They treat us the same, whether Sid and Geno are in or out of the lineup,'' Staal said. "We play the same system, we don't change anything."

Still, all of hockey will consider it a change for the better when the consensus greatest player on Earth does return. The feeling around the Penguins is Crosby will be back in early or mid-November, after a break allows the team to hold more physical practices.

Bylsma wouldn't even go as far as to predict that. With a concussion, you never know.

"He's still in the process of rehabbing," the coach said. "You see him on ice and his level of compete, speed and skill is great to watch. I think everyone would like to know when [his] Game 1 is, but we're still in the process of going through his rehab, and that doesn't have a timetable."

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