The 26-year-old defenseman suffered a scary injury on Tuesday night when he was hit in the face with the puck, and ESPN's Katie Strang provided a good-news-bad-news update on Wednesday night:
According to a statement released by the Rangers, Staal has "improved significantly" since leaving the team's 4-2 win against the Flyers. He was examined by both Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist, and Dr. Mandel Markowitz, a maxillofacial surgeon. Staal will not need surgery.
The Rangers did not provide any timetable for his recovery or any further specifics about the nature of the injury.
Fortunately, it sounds as though Staal will avoid any serious, long-term effects—the most important takeaway considering the nature and location of the injury—but don't be surprised if he is forced to miss a large amount of time.
"It's hard to say now. They're just waiting for the swelling to go down," Eric Staal told NHL.com. Eric said he spoke to Marc on Wednesday morning. "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."
Sadly, this is unfortunate timing for Staal, who was beginning to play his best two-way hockey since returning from concussion problems that forced him to miss action last season.
In 21 games this season, Staal is third on the Rangers with nine assists and tied for fifth with 11 points. He has a solid plus/minus of plus-four and was beginning to consistently earn 25-to-27 minutes on the ice per night.
Possibly most importantly, his terrific play has given head coach John Tortorella depth on the back line and allowed him to take some of the pressure off Ryan McDonagh.
Nevertheless, no matter how important Staal has been on the ice for the 11-8-2 Rangers, his health, recovery and return to 100 percent vision will always—rightfully so—be at the forefront of everything else.
In Staal's stead, McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto will assume larger roles, while Anton Stralman and Matt Gilroy will also likely see extra time on the ice.