Staal feeling bit blue

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:25 PM ET

When you look at the New York Rangers blue-line, it isn't hard to see why Marc Staal was returned to the Sudbury Wolves.

Sandis Ozolinsh, Darius Kasparaitis, Aaron Ward, Marek Malik -- and that's just the top four blue-liners the Rangers put on the ice. All more than 30 years old and all with a tonne of experience.

It doesn't make it any easier for the 19-year-old to accept. After all, if he had been drafted by the defence-thin Pittsburgh Penguins, he'd be playing in the NHL with his 18-year-old brother Jordan. Instead, he will be playing with 16-year-old Jared, the youngest Staal brother, in Sudbury.

It's a sure bet Marc will be the third member of the Staal clan to suit up in the NHL. The eldest Staal, Eric, 21, is a star with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Even though the Wolves are thrilled he's back, Marc will have to find a way to choke down his disappointment.

"Sure it's disappointing because you want to play in the NHL," Staal said. "But they wanted me to come back and get quicker and stronger and that's what I have to work on."

Last night's game was the only time London fans will see the Staals.

Most junior players, especially those with a shot at making the NHL, take a while to get back into the swing of junior hockey. Some never get back into the swing and what's supposed to be a year in which they develop, turns into a year of going through the motions.

"That's not going to happen with him," said Wolves coach Mike Foligno, who knows it may take a while for Staal to get in the groove. "It's going to be natural that he's going to keep one eye on his team here and another eye on New York. He knows everyone there now and he'll be watching what they do and the moves they make. But he knows he needs to develop.

"Just like he knows that he'll get another chance. He's a real prospect, not some washed-up old player who gets sent down and will never get another chance."

No matter how well grounded Staal is, it had to be difficult watching his 18-year-old brother sign with the Penguins.

Mark Hunter, who knows something about brotherly competition joining both Dale and Dave in the NHL, says it's a good thing when brothers do well.

"If you have that competitive edge, you want to make it. It pushes you. If you don't have that competitive edge, you don't belong," he said.

Staal is aware of the potential pitfalls in his situation.

"What I need to do is not take a year off, not go through the motions," he said. "I need to work hard and improve because it will help me in the end."


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