Throughout the summer Marc Staal's Ranger teammates have checked in via text or phone call to find out how the defenseman feels, how his injured eye is recuperrating. When Staal attended Team Canada's Olympic training camp more than a week ago players approached him to find out how he is doing and to offer encouragement as the Rangers alternate captain looks to bounce back from the frightening eye injuring he suffered last March.
On Thursday, after skating with 22 of his Blueshirt 'mates in a pre-training camp workout at the MSG Training Center, Staal was able to say with confidence--and a smile--that he is ready to return to the form that has made him one of the NHL's premier defensemen, and that his injured eye will not hinder his play in 2013-14.
"It's behind me and I've been able to turn the page," explained Staal, who does admit that he has not recovered full vision in his eye and likely never will. "I'm healthy and looking forward to starting the season fresh."
In fact Staal---who is using a blue-tinted visor to cut down on the glare inside the hockey rink---took it a step further when discussing his overall health heading into the upcoming season.
"This is the best I've felt in a couple years," Staal stated, referring to not only his eye in jury last spring, but his concussion issues from the 2011-12 campaign.
Staal was in the midst of a stellar two-way season following the lockout last year when he was struck by a deflected Kimo Timonen slap shot at The Garden on March 5th. The 26 year-old career-long Ranger had notched 11 points (2-9-11) in 21 games and was averaging more than 24 minutes of ice-time per game at the time of his injury, and his absence was a major blow for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The 27 games he missed last year brought his total to 63 missed the past two seasons, a number he does not plan on adding to in 2013-14.
"Trying to come back in the playoffs was hard, and watching was an ordeal, but after this summer and feeling as good as I do it's motivating to get back to a high level," Staal explained on Thursday. "Skating the first time (this summer) to when I tried to come back and play (last spring) was almost night and day in how I felt. It's good. It's encouraging."
While things are not perfect with his eye, Staal said that he has been able to "adapt to it" and that his brain "has kind of re-wired itself" to compensate in areas like depth perception and tracking moving objects.
"From then to now, it's just a huge difference..I don't notice any issues at all," stated Staal.
With training camp less than a week away, those are words Staal spoke on Thursday are music to the ears of his new coaches, his teammates, and Rangers fans everywhere. The proof will be on the ice, but Marc Staal seems more than ready to back up his words and return to his All Star form this coming season.