Not that anyone realistically thought there would be a Marc Staal sighting today at the MSG Training Center, but…
Staal, continuing treatment for concussion-related headaches, won’t practice this week or face the Islanders Saturday, coach John Tortorella said. And to me, it appears that the All-Star defender won’t accompany the Blueshirts when they leave Sunday for a four-game trip to Western Canada.
“He won’t be here,” Tortorella said after the Rangers (0-0-2) practiced for the first time after their exhausting 12-day European sojourn. “Marc continues to go through his whole situation with his doctors,” Tortorella said. “Someday Marc comes in and we’re going to prepare him the best we can to play a game. I’m not going to get into how long or how short.’’
Staal, 24, who sustained a concussion on Feb. 22 and began experiencing headaches during workouts last summer, did not scrimmage, play in any preseason games or join the team on the flight to Europe on Sept. 26. He skated twice before AHL Whale practices in Connecticut, but was placed on injured reserve last Thursday. Staal has received acupuncture treatments on his neck and at least one cortisone injection and Tortorella said yesterday that two days ago, trainer Jim Ramsay reported that Staal “was feeling good.”
Nonetheless, the Rangers want Staal to be symptom-free before joining the lineup, and it would not be a surprise if he does not dress for the team’s home opener on Oct. 27 against the Maple Leafs, the eighth game of the season.
In his absence, the task of defending the opposition’s top lines has fallen to Staal’s defensive partner, Dan Girardi, and second-year blueliner Ryan McDonagh. Girardi logged more than 30 minutes against both the Kings and Ducks in Stockholm,
“It’s not ideal,” said Tortorella, “but he can do it.”
McDonagh, who played on the second pair with Michael Sauer last season, logged 26:41 and 26: 59 on consecutive nights. In the Ducks game, Girardi and McDonagh matched up against Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, considered the NHL’s most potent line.
“They’re scary: big, fast, skilled…It’s a good feeling when you keep them off the scoreboard,” said McDonagh, who closed the gaps in the neutral zone to keep the trio from flying in. “Danny calms you down, keeps you focused. He’s a pretty simple player and he’s very vocal, always has his head up. He’s letting me know if I’ve got time or have a guy on me. But every team has good lines, it’s a matter of doing it every night.” Without Staal, that’s a major challenge for both McDonagh and Girardi.
Here’s more from the coach, who is pleased to be back on U.S. soil:
On the Gaborik-Richards pairing, which was broken up in the third period against the Ducks: “They’re gonna play together,” and Brandon Dubinsky will start with them for Saturday’s Islanders game. “I don’t think any line played well in the second (Ducks) game. I’m going to hold off of where I think people sit, until out west and the Isles game.”
On today’s practice: “The biggest part is the grinding part, our play underneath the hashmarks.” In the larger Euro rinks during the exhibitions, there was little contact.
On the trip: Loved the crowds, loved the experience, but the lack of time for practice was telling: “As far as nuts and bolts, as in getting the team ready, was the biggest disadvantage.”
On sidelined Wojtek Wolski (groin) who was scratched for the Ducks game and didn’t skate today, and Michael Sauer (right shoulder): “They’re still sore, Michael’s working on strengthening, we’re trying to use this week for that.”
On Dan Girardi’s 30-plus minutes per game: “It’s not ideal…He can do it, but if ends up (affecting him), we’ll try to help him as far as practice time.” Thinks ice time can be reduced a bit.
On Tim Erixon, who skated with Jeff Woywitka: “For the minutes he played, he’s still a little between…I thought he equipped himself very well. We have to be really careful; we want to keep him playing. If for some reason we feel he’ll be the odd man out, we’lll send him to the minors.”
On the lengthy, 5 on 4 power-play practice: “Just to develop a foundation. In Stockholm, the ice was just awful. Wednesday, we’ll probably do it without penalty killers.”
Notes & Quotes
Artem (007) Anisimov? When I asked him about his favorite off-ice part of the trip, he confessed: “Munich, the place (a lavish, grand hotel/castle nestled into a mountain) we stayed in. I walked in, felt like James Bond. My Aston-Martin was parked outside.” …Jeff Woywitka seems like an engaging fellow, and was looking forward to the Tortorella training camp tests, which he missed…After the NHL games in Europe, Erixon said he was “starting to feel comfortable, starting to learn the (North American) game, that it’s possible to play here. I’ve played against good players before. On the smaller ice, they come a little bit fast. But I don’t really skate with the puck that much, I try to get the puck quickly to the wingers.”…MSG Sam Rosen, watching practice, liked the numbers on the front/top of the helmets, because it will be helpful for play-by-play identification...Rangers postponed charity golf outing takes place Tuesday at Trump National and Sleepy Hollow courses in Westchester...