The New York Rangers lost defenseman Marc Staal to a brutal eye injury, suffered when he took a puck to the face during the team's 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden.
UPDATE: Tuesday, April 9, at 2:00 p.m. ET by Tom Kinslow
Staal has taken his first steps towards returning to the New York lineup as he skated today, according to the team's Twitter account.
The defenseman later talked to the media and told them that his fractures have healed but his vision isn't quite back to normal, per Jesse Spector of the Sporting News.
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A duality between good and bad news has come out regarding Staal's eye injury. According to Steve Zipay of Newsday, the 26-year-old defenseman will be out indefinitely but is expected to fully recover from his injuries:
The Rangers also released a statement about Staal's injury via their Twitter feed:
Following such a gruesome scene, the latter news has to bring joy to Staal and everyone involved with the Rangers organization.
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He sounded like he was in OK spirits but we don't know a lot right now. Obviously we're saying prayers and hoping he dodged a bullet as far as being struck in that area. We'll know more with some more time...
Ron Francis grabbed me and said, "Hey, I want to let you know before anyone else tells you, but your brother got hit hard a few minutes ago so I'm letting you be aware of it."
...It's scary to see. It's an awful feeling and it made me sick to my stomach seeing him in that pain with his legs kicking. But, it was good to talk to him [Wednesday] and, hopefully, everything is going to be OK.
Unfortunately, though, it seems that the eye hasn't healed enough for doctors to determine a diagnosis at this point. In the meantime, the Rangers have made a move to add depth in the event that Staal misses an extended amount of time.
Jim Cerny of Rangers.NHL.com reports that New York has acquired veteran blueliner Roman Hamrlik.
Below is a video of the shot that took out Staal. After the Flyers won a faceoff in the third period, the puck rolled back to Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen. He then rifled a slap shot that hit Staal square on.
Staal was not wearing a helmet visor when he was hit with the puck.
As Jeff Klein of the New York Times points out, this incident involving Staal may give the NHL even more momentum in pushing a mandatory policy that requires players to wear visors. That stance was reemphasized Wednesday morning by deputy commissioner Bill Daly:
The league continues to support a rule that would make visors mandatory in N.H.L. games. As you know, it has been the consistent position of the Players’ Association that they are opposed to mandating visor use, that it should be a matter of ‘player choice,’ and that increased visor use by players should be achieved through continued education and sensitization to the dangers associated with non-use. I believe that continues to be the Players’ Association’s position, although I cannot speak for them.
The 26-year-old Staal has two goals and nine assists in 21 games for the Rangers this season. In addition to leading Rangers defensemen in scoring, he has been a key part of the defensive effort that has allowed just 2.4 goals per contest—fifth best in the league.
New York also ranks in the top 10 in penalty killing, with a percentage of 83.3. Staal's impact will be missed in this lockout-shortened season should he miss an extended period of time.