Staal did not even try to skate on his sore knee this morning at the Verizon Center here in Washington, D.C., so he will miss his first game due to injury in his entire four-year career -- he missed two games his rookie season, 2007-08, due to the flu.
"It's more of a day to day thing. We don't want to risk hurting it worse, so we're just taking it day by day for now," Staal said after his team skated without him. "It's been a while since I missed a game. We're just making sure it heals up properly and I'm ready to go."
With Staal out, Ryan McDonagh will move up to play alongside Dan Girardi in trying to shut down Alex Ovechkin's line. Girardi missed his first game in five seasons the last time the Rangers were here, on Jan. 24, and Michael Sauer stepped in nicely to pair with Staal to keep Ovechkin off the scoresheet in a 2-1 shootout win.
John Tortorella expects the same of McDonagh, and the usual from Girardi.
"I have to have Dann Girardi on the ice against (Ovechkin's) line," Tortorella said. It'll be a good stepping stone for McDonagh, and really for everyone since we're moving guys around."
Matt Gilroy will play the left side with Sauer and Steve Eminger, a healthy scratch for nine of the last 10, will return to play with Michael Del Zotto.
Ruslan Fedotenko, who's missed the last 14 games with a separated shoulder and an appendectomy, will return tonight. Kris Newbury was waived in order to be sent back to Connecticut.
Henrik Lundqvist starts in net. More later from DC.