For the first time since being sidelined by a puck to the eye on March 5th, Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal met with reporters at the MSG Training Center on Tuesday afternoon. Staal looked remarkably good considering the nature of his injury, and he seemed very upbeat and happy to be back amongst his teammates.
Staal revealed that he skated by himself for the first time since the injury on Monday. Then on Tuesday before the rest of the team took to the ice for practice, Staal skated with fellow injured defenseman Roman Hamrlik. Though he said, "I was so sore I couldn't get out of bed this morning", Staal felt good about his return to physical activity---which began last week with some light off-ice excercise.
"It's nice to walk in the room and see the smiles and hear the joking around, and being around that just gets you in a better mood," explained Staal, who added that he didn't really see or speak his teammates for the first couple of weeks after the injury.
In the midst of a strong comeback season folllowing his concussion-tinged 2011-12 campaign, Staal was struck in the left eye by a deflected Kimmo Timonen shot on March 5th at The Garden. Staal collapsed to the ice, saying today that he immediately thought he should have been wearing a visor, and then with blood gushing from his wounds, he was escorted off the ice and eventually to the hospital.
"The first night the eye looked good, I didn't need surgery, so that was good," Staal recounted on Tuesday. "Every week or so from there the vision would clear up and get better, so that was encouraging. It's been tough, though. That first week was pretty scary, I don't think my wife slept the first four nights wiping blood off my eye and off my face. She's been amazing, and my parents and my brothers. And it's amazing how small the hockey world is and how many people reached out. That's been great."
Staal confirmed that he is now earing a visor on his helmet and that it is taking some adjusting to, though he added "why not protect yourself". He also said he would support a new grandfathering in the mandatory use of visors now after his accident.
As for when he might be able to practice with his teammmates, or when he might be able to play in a game, Staal believes it is far too early to say at this time.
"Obviously you want to be back as soon as you can," answered Staal, who has missed 18 straight games due to the injury. "For me, I want to get in the best shape possible and monitor the eye as we go and take it one step at a time. There's no timeline or date when I'm expecting to be back."
Staal said that the fractures around his eye "are good", but he is learning to play and do things without 100 percent vision in his left eye. Though his vision keeps getting better, Staal noted that the doctors have not guaranteed a full return of his eyesight.
Next up for Staal, he plans to be on the ice again tomorrow as he continues to improve his conditioning.
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