Rangers

Hartnett: Rangers Sweating Over Likely Staal Concussion

Staal's History Of Head Injuries Could Mean Long Absence For Key D-Man
Marc Staal (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Marc Staal (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

The Rangers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils is an afterthought considering the likelihood that alternate captain Marc Staal has suffered a serious concussion.

All the dramatic moments and highly debated refereeing decisions seem meaningless compared to concerns over the health of the Rangers’ key defenseman.

When at full health, Staal is one of the league’s foremost shutdown defensemen. Unless the Rangers receive an unexpected stroke of luck, they will need to figure out how to cope with losing Staal for what could be an extended period of time.

Devils winger Reid Boucher caught Staal’s chin with his shoulder at 13:24 in the third period. Boucher’s hit was high, though not malicious. A dazed Staal squirmed with his back on the ice before helping himself up and immediately skated off the ice toward the trainer’s room.

While walking toward the tunnel, Staal appeared visibly upset and spiked his helmet on the carpet. His evident disappointment suggested that Staal knew immediately he was concussed.

The 26-year-old defenseman did not return to the bench for the remainder of the game and was unavailable to speak with reporters after the game.

Staal missed 36 games during the 2011-12 season due to a concussion. Last season, he missed 27 games due to a serious eye injury.

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh hinted that Staal could be out for some time.

“We don’t know what his situation is,” McDonagh said. “Obviously, you can see he’s a tough player. You see him go off and stay down there for a second, we obviously hope for the best. We’ve got good (training) staff here.

“He’s a big part of our team and we’re gonna miss him.”

Captain Ryan Callahan spoke of his concern for Staal.

“I don’t know what the extent of the injury is, what the injury is,” Callahan said. “You never like to see a guy go down. Hopefully, he’s OK.”

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Staal “took a shoulder to the chin” and that his defenseman “didn’t feel quite right.”

Vigneault said that Staal was evaluated after the game, and the Rangers will have an update on Staal’s status Sunday.

The Rangers do not have a practice scheduled for Sunday. Vigneault is scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. ahead of the Blueshirts’ 7 p.m. game versus the Washington Capitals.

CALLAHAN SHOULDERS BLAME FOR OT DEFEAT

At 1:02 into overtime, Callahan awkwardly swung his stick, catching Devils defenseman Andy Greene in the face. Callahan was a called for a high-sticking double-minor.

His stay in the penalty box was short as Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas wound up a powerful slap shot from the right point, beating Henrik Lundqvist 13 seconds into the double-minor to win the thrilling game for New Jersey.

Callahan took full responsibility for what he described as “costing the Rangers a point.”

“It’s a play I can’t make,” Callahan said. “It costs us a point at the end of the day, and that’s on me.”

Callahan took a slash from Gelinas during the third period. The Devils defenseman caught Callahan, who later confirmed his injury wasn’t anything worrisome.

“It’s not serious,” Callahan said.

Following the defeat, Vigneault confirmed that Lundqvist will start against the Capitals on Sunday night.

Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.

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