GREENBURGH, N.Y. - When the Rangers played the Hurricanes last April 25 in Raleigh, N.C., it was memorable on several levels. Ryan Callahan's overtime goal clinched a playoff spot for the Rangers, and it also was the night that three of the Staal brothers skated into the NHL history books.
Forwards Eric, the oldest, and Jordan played for Carolina, and the youngest, Jared, was summoned from the AHL for his debut. Jared started on a forward line with his brothers in that game. A fourth brother, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, sidelined by a serious eye injury, watched with a mixture of pride and envy.
On Saturday night, when the Rangers take on the Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden, Marc Staal will play against two of his brothers on the same team for the first time. He'll face Eric and Jordan; Jared is playing with AHL Charlotte.
The Bentley brothers (Chicago), the Plagers (St. Louis) and the Stastnys (Quebec) were other trios who played for the same team in the same game, but this matchup is special for Marc, considering the past.
"It was cool to watch," Marc said Friday. "I'm glad I was in the building watching Jared's first game; it was a pretty neat experience. Obviously, I would rather have been playing against them, but it's going to make for a little different dynamic.
"I'm sure I'll see a lot of either of them. When you're up against one, it's kind of easy to know when he's on the ice, or if I'm matched up, but two of them . . . It's going to be two of those faces all the time."
Family ties don't deter the boys from Thunder Bay, Ontario, from physical play. Eric steamrolled Marc in a game in February 2011, and the impact resulted in a concussion. Marc briefly returned but the symptoms recurred, and he didn't return for good until Jan. 1, 2012, in the Winter Classic in Philadelphia.
The brothers never dreamed about the possibility of such sibling scenarios, said Marc, who played his 400th game on Thursday night. "You dream about playing in the NHL, but the reality is pretty unique on that type of stage," he said. "We loved the game growing up and had a lot of fun with it."
For the Rangers and Hurricanes, the game, not the family, takes precedence. "They've lost a couple in a row," Marc said after practice. "We get them on a back-to-back, so our start's going to be key: Make sure we jump on them early and get the lead and keep it."
When Marc joined parents Henry and Linda for a meal in New York on Friday, it was without Eric and Jordan, who played Tampa Bay in Raleigh Friday night. He noted one immediate impact. Said Marc with a grin, "A cheaper dinner for me."