GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Amid the gloom of a four-game losing streak, there is a sliver of light in Rangerland: Marc Staal is "doing well" in recovering from his concussion, coach Alain Vigneault said.
There is no timetable for the return of Staal, who has missed the last three games, but Vigneault said the defenseman is improving. He left the Devils game last Saturday after a shoulder to the jaw from Reid Boucher and was diagnosed with a concussion.
"He's doing well," Vigneault said. "He's been doing off-ice conditioning the last three days. I'm not exactly sure what the next steps are, but I know he's been working out off the ice."
The general post-concussion protocol is that if there are no symptoms (headaches, nausea, dizziness) after off-ice workouts, a player skates on his own, and if he remains symptom- free, he can be cleared to skate with a few players and then practice in a noncontact jersey. A player usually participates in at least one practice with contact before playing.
Staal's absence has been felt. The 26-year-old alternate captain had been playing on the second defensive pair and penalty kill, logging 19:58 of ice time per game.
According to doctors, the injury is not as severe as a concussion he suffered at the hands of his brother Eric against the Hurricanes in February 2011. Though he played the rest of that season, he was sidelined for the first 36 games the next season.
Notes & quotes: Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled after the Rangers (15-17-1) allowed three goals in the first 11:10 against the Blue Jackets on Thursday, will start against the Flames Sunday, but Vigneault has not yet decided on the rest of the lineup . . . Derick Brassard, who missed Thursday's game with a lower-body injury and did not skate in Friday's optional practice, is expected to practice Saturday . . . Despite a 3-6-1 record in the last 10 games, the Rangers are three points out of the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. "As much as we're struggling in certain areas, we're still right in the picture," Vigneault said.