Staal takes step forward by skating

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)

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Marc Staal skated with his teammates -- well, one teammate -- Thursday for the first time since post-concussion symptoms delayed his season indefinitely.

The All-Star defenseman practiced with injured teammate Mike Rupp at the end of the Rangers' morning skate at the RBC Center. Staal's presence on the ice was a significant one in a comeback attempt that still has no definite timetable.

"That's a long ways away," he said in his first comments since he was shut down for a month in early October. "I need to get my strength back and all that stuff along with feeling good as far as my head goes, too, so I have no idea [about a timetable]. I think the rate of improvement the last month or so, I feel I'll be back [this season], and that's the plan."

Staal said it has been "a long journey" since he was injured on a high check by his brother Eric on Feb. 22. As for any animosity toward Eric, Marc said: "I put that behind me. Maybe the day after it happened. Not right away. I was pretty upset. It was tough because it was my brother and it's a whole different situation when that happens and you get hit hard like that and get injured. We play hard against each other."

Asked who has helped him through this, Staal said: "There was a lot of people. Obviously, my brothers, which is a funny thing to say. But they've been a big help."

That Thursday's milestone took place in the same rink in which he was injured was dismissed as mere happenstance.

"It just kind of worked out that way," he said. "I skated a few times really lightly on my own in New York and things went pretty well, so we just decided to do it here."

Asked how long he has felt better, Staal said: "It's been a couple of weeks. I've had a lot of good days. I'll still have a bad day mixed in there once in a while. You just adapt and adjust. I feel when I've had a not-so-good day, the improvement the next day has been basically back to normal again."

Staal last skated formally on Oct. 1 in Hartford with the Whale (AHL). He has had a cortisone shot in his neck and underwent acupuncture, but neither treatment worked. The low point was when Boston-based specialist Robert Cantu told Staal he had to refrain from any physical activity for a month.

"It's been tough," he said. "The month when they told me to shut it down -- that was hard. The first couple of weeks were pretty miserable. I saw the improvement going into the third and fourth week of just resting."

After getting hit, Staal played the rest of last season and expected to come into training camp this year ready to go. It didn't happen. "Obviously I think, looking back, personally I would have taken more time," he said. "I sugarcoated a lot of things and told myself I was fine and I did feel good. I wasn't feeling 100 percent. But at that point it was my decision to get going."

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