Staal injury real headache for Rangers

Marc Staal of the New York Rangers looks on during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of...

Marc Staal of the New York Rangers looks on during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Harry How/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Here in this leafy community north of Manhattan, the shadows sure got long quick for the New York Rangers.

After years of hustling after every free agent, creating one of the world's great country clubs and having one of the worst points-per-dollar-spent ratios in the league, the Blueshirts have been progressing in terms of developing their own talent and competing in a salary cap era. Ryan Callahan, taken in 2004 along with Brandon Dubinsky in what's turned out to be a watershed draft for the Rangers, was recently named captain, part of a dyed-in-the-blue nucleus.

The Rangers showed they can still do the free-agent dance, if needed, winning the Brad Richards sweepstakes this summer (oh, about Wade Redden? The big free-agent signing of a couple of years ago wasn't even invited to this camp. He was told to report directly to the AHL's Connecticut Whale again, where the Rangers buried him and his salary last season).

Adding Richards to an emerging core of their own developing players should set the Rangers up to be a playoff team again this season, but nobody said it was going to be easy.

Which brings us to top defenceman Marc Staal.

Another good pick by the Rangers (12th overall in 2005), Staal is the Rangers' No. 1 defenceman, but the shadow cast by the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered seven months ago when hit by his brother Eric of the Carolina Hurricanes has turned the positive vibe here into one of concern.

After being sent home Monday when he showed up suffering from headaches after a couple of days of tough workouts, Staal was back on the ice Tuesday and went through practice at a pretty good pace.

No problem there.

The test of Staal's condition, given the way things have been going, would have been later Tuesday night.

"It depends on the length and the hardness of the workout. Some days I'll get a headache late in the day that will last sometimes four or five hours or last one hour. That's the way it's been going the last couple of weeks," said the 24-year-old, who led the Rangers in ice time last season with an average of 25 minutes and 44 seconds.

"I don't feel any symptoms if I don't do anything. If I sit on the couch all day, I don't get any headaches or anything like that. If I push myself really hard the later on in the day, more times than not, I'll get a headache."

Rangers coach John Tortorella has already said that despite Staal being cleared for contact, he will be held out of scrimmages and the club's North American exhibition games (the Rangers head to Europe to start the season) as a precautionary measure.

Staal was hit by his brother in February as Eric caught Marc with his head down along the boards and dropped him with a shoulder check. Marc missed three games with a knee injury after the hit and another couple in March. He was cleared to play and dismissed the effects of the hit. Incredibly, he topped 30 minutes of ice time twice in the playoffs in the Rangers' opening-round loss to the Washington Capitals.

"(The symptoms were) not this noticeable and not this bad. At the time, I never had a concussion before. You play 30 minutes a night, you feel rundown, you don't feel all that great to begin with, so at the time I wasn't really concerned about it," he said after his workout Tuesday. "I started to notice things a lot more after we got knocked out of the playoffs and started to work out."

Staal couldn't get through a summer workout with a headache flaring up. He took about a month off, but the symptoms returned when he resumed working out.

Things had been improving, but a tough opening to camp caused him to have a setback.

"Those three days were pretty tough and I came to the rink not feeling all that great so we decided to take the foot off the gas a little bit and took a day off and feel better today," he said.

"We'll see where it goes. I felt good again today. I feel fine going through the workouts. I usually don't get any symptoms as I'm going through. It's just after the fact."

As he headed out of the rink Tuesday, all he could do was go home and wait.

Wait to see if the headache would return.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


Videos

Photos