It was a somewhat surprising development, given that coach John Tortorella said yesterday that the defenseman, who had been sidelined by concussion symptoms, would not be in today's lineup, but Staal will make his season debut against the Flyers.
The decision was made after consulting with doctors, trainers and Staal last night, Tortorella said. Staal will skate on the third defensive pair, but the coach said he had not decided who would be scratched. Ryan McDonagh left practice early yesterday with the flu, but it is also possible that Jeff Woywitka could be a healthy scratch.
Staal has been practicing, with contact, for more than a week and has said his strength was returning. The concussion came from a Feb. 22 hit by his brother, Eric, of the Carolina Hurricanes. Staal missed several games and returned to play the remainder of the season and the playoffs, but began experiencing severe headaches after summer workouts at home in Thunder Bay.
"I spoke with (concussion specialist) Dr. Cantu, and everything was good with him, everything was good with Rammer, (trainer in Ramsay), so I sat down and talked with him and asked him, 'Do you want to play,?' said Tortorella. "I said, Staals, I don't care about anybody else's opinion, are you ready to play?' He said he was, so he's playing. I don't care if we're playing in a creek somewhere, he's going to play. As far as the minutes, that's going to take time. We'll make judgements as we go through. We're not putting him in a top 4 position."