Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes will visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York City Friday night for the first time since Eric knocked his younger brother, Rangers assistant captain Marc Staal, out with a concussion in late February. Since that game, Marc Staal has yet to play a game. With himself being the reason his own brother has been unable to play in eight months on Eric Staal's conscience, there is no wondering how he will fare when he plays the Rangers Friday evening.
Eric talked to the media recently about the impact the hit has had not only on himself and Marc, but so to the rest of the Staal family, telling the New York Times, “It’s tough for him; it’s tough for me; it’s tough for everyone in the family.” The hit itself was perfectly legal, even with the new rules it was shoulder into chest, but it was Marc's impact with the ice that caused the eventual diagnosis of a concussion.
What people are really wondering is if the distraction of a personal issue Eric is suffering as a result of the hit, taking his own brother out of hockey, is causing the Hurricanes captain to have offensive woes to begin the 2011-12 season. He says it isn’t, but that is more of a lack of inconsistent play and not being able to find his niche so far this campaign.
Whether or not his conscience has anything to do with his play, there is no denying that when he plays against New York on Friday that Marc will be on his mind. But how will he play in New York? You know that every time he touches the puck he will get booed.
Eric Staal has always been admired around the league as a stand-up guy and a terrific hockey player. He has never faced any sort of adversity like this, or hatred for that matter. How he reacts to the situation will be very intriguing.
Will he make it a statement game both for his actual on-ice play and to clear his conscience, or will he struggle mentally and let it translate to his on ice play? Or will he just completely ignore the fans and the situation and play a normal game?
It should be interesting to see how Eric Staal reacts when he plays in MSG this weekend, and whether or not we will really see if Marc's injury has been causing him true issues this season.