Found January 08, 2012 on The Rangers Tribune:
Pittsburgh_penguins_v_be66

Defenseman Marc Staal knew he was up for a challenge when returning to the Rangers lineup for the first time since last April on Monday during the 2012 NHL Winter  StaalClassic in Philadelphia. As a professional hockey player, you can do everything in the world to get yourself mentally and physically prepared in practice and in the weight room, but nothing compares to the feel of a game or the stress it will put your body through. Staal understood and while there is still much work to be done, he's made exceptional progress in his first three games of the season. 

It was obvious that in the game against Philadelphia, Staal clearly was not the same shutdown defenseman the team relied so heavily on all throughout last season - which is why he played through a concussion for most of 2011 in the first place. Marc's timing on many plays was off, he wasn't keeping up with the opposition's top forwards and he definitely was slightly hesitant to get involved physically. That, though, was expected and considered part of the process in his ongoing recovery. 

Marc had 12:41 of ice time in that first game, which made up a total of 20 shifts. He played just ten seconds more in his second game of the season, which was on Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the Florida Panthers. Head coach John Tortorella stated from day one that he would slowly work Staal in, which is the best way of going about it especially after seeing what's gone on with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Staal, though, has been on a much quicker pace than the coaches expected he would, though, and we saw that in his most recent outing in Pittsburgh on Friday. He received 15 minutes of ice time in that one, in which he was handed bigger responsibilities and saw a little more of the opposition's faster players. Staal held up very well and even was engaged physically, before and after the whistle, multiple times throughout the night. He even threw one of his heavy body checks in the neutral zone during the third period, which was the first we've seen from him since his return. 

“He’s handled himself very well since he’s been back. He was our best defenseman last year. Dan Girardi has been a rock for us back there this year, but we still look at Marc as our top guy and it won’t be too long until he gets back to the level we’re accustomed to.” - Brandon Dubinsky to the NY Post

Staal has been placed on the third pairing with Stu Bickel to this point, and so far they've worked well together with Bickel being a very talkative player out on the ice. Bickel's vocals, coupled with his on-ice awareness, have dramatically made Staal's job out there easier. Again, another smart coaching move by Tortorella that's gone a long way. 

It may be a while until Staal is back at the top of his game and ready to jump into the top two pairings on defense, but he's rapidly returning to form, and the back-to-back this past week helped him out a lot...

“I felt a lot better [Friday] than the night before, my energy level was better. I’ve got that sore, training-camp feeling going now, but I’m starting to get into it.”

“I’ve never played 13 or 15 minutes in a game before, and it is difficult. But right now, those minutes seem like a lot more.” - Staal to the NY Post

It seems like Staal and the coaches are very much on the same page here, and I think as long as that stays constant, he will be back to his normal self quicker than many expected. The fact that the Rangers have been so successful without Staal this season has enabled Tortorella to ease Staal back into things and not immediately force him into situations that he may not be ready for. 

“I think that’s what has to be done,” Tortorella said. “We have to go through the process. With him missing [training] camp and so many games, we’re going to slowly go about it. Maybe we’ll add [minutes] and sometimes maybe we’ll take away, depending on how the process goes.”

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Halfway There Report Card: The Defense

With the halfway point of the season upon us (for the most part), and the Rangers in first place, it’s as good of a time as any to begin with the mid-point report cards. We are going to do these in a series of posts, with Chris covering the top six forwards, Suit covering the bottom six forwards, Justin covering the goalies, and myself covering the defense. The Rangers have used...

Video: Staal Starting to Get His Game Back

In the below video Marc Staal discusses how he's feeling after his first three games back from post concussion syndrome. Henrik Lundqvist and Mike Rupp also discuss the team's current play... Larry Brooks at the New York Post has more on Staal.Remember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at nyrfan94@yahoo.com.

Avery Misses Weekend Whale Series with "Illness"

This past weekend, the CT Whale dropped both games of their home and home series against the Springfield Falcons.But to me the biggest story is that Sean Avery was a scratch in both games with what is being defined as an "illness."In Avery's first and only two games back with the Whale, he took penalties that directly led to opponent goals, one of which helped lose...

Callahan One of the Best Captains in the NHL

In a piece on the ten reasons the Rangers could win the Stanley Cup this season, Kevin Allen of USA Today says this about Rangers Captain Ryan Callahan...4. Renewable energy: Ryan Callahan doesn't have an enormous national profile, and yet he might be one of the league's best captains. He is an old-school leader who pushes his team to higher performance with his energy and...

The View from on Top

That's right folks, your New York Rangers are tops in the NHL......not in my wildest dreams entering the season could I have imagined this.Meanwhile, Dave Lozo at NHL.com gives us the eight reasons why the Rangers are #1 in the NHL.Lozo also has an article on Marty Biron's importance to the Rangers.Remember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at ...

Whale Fall To Springfield In Shootout, Drop Third In A Row

Springfield Falcons 5, Connecticut Whale 4 (SO) By Brian Ring Hartford, CT, January 7, 2012 - The Connecticut Whale were defeated, 5-4, by the Springfield Falcons in a shootout before a crowd of 7,159 at the XL Center Saturday night in Hartford. Matt Calvert had a goal and an assist for Springfield and then registered the shootout winner. Kris Newbury (2-1-3) and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault...

Train Keep A ‘Rollin – Rangers @ Penguins Post Game Thoughts…

“It looked early on like we were a team that was saying, `Uh, oh, we’re tired, we’ve won a lot of games here lately, this may be just our bad night,’ ” John Tortorella has such an unbelievable feel for the game. His in game adjustments, his foresight, and his ability to get the most out of his players are just a few of the many, many reasons I love this coach. It...

Under-Appreciating Marian Gaborik

Is it possible to silently be amongst the league leaders in goals scored? If it is, consider Marian Gaborik Exhibit A. Marian Gaborik doesn’t get quite the attention of Steven Stamkos, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Alex Ovechkin or any of the other elite goal-scorers in the league, but so far this season he’s certainly deserved [...]

Lundqvist’s 37 Pitt stops lift Rangers

PITTSBURGH — In the City of Steel, Henrik Lundqvist was the Man of Steal. Other Rangers emerged to play important roles in last night’s 3-1 victory over the Penguins that stretched the Blueshirts’ latest winning streak to four games in a season of all but seamless stretches of success, but...

Rupp's heart still in Western Pennsylvania

Mike Rupp plays for the New York Rangers now, but he made it clear Friday that his heart remains in Western Pennsylvania.

Rangers’ Girardi Gathers Motivation From Slights

Defenseman Dan Girardi, who went undrafted, leads all N.H.L. players in ice time this season but is a long shot to make the All-Star team.

Bad Dive - Rangers 3, Penguins 1

So what happened? If you're going to do the dive play in a two-on-one, you can't let the man with the puck walk around you to the middle of the ice.  Unfortunately that's exactly what happened to Matt Niskanen when he dove and slid right past Ryan Callahan, turning a two-on-one into a two-on-none.  Flower had no chance as Callahan passed the puck to Dubinsky for...

NHLPA wants more info on NHL realignment

NHL realignment is not a “dead issue,” Rangers assistant team player representative Martin Biron said Saturday. The players simply didn’t have enough information to make their decision by the league’s Jan. 6 deadline. “Everybody’s saying that it’s been rejected,” Biron said at practice in Greenburgh Saturday

Rangers coach Tortorella gets ‘Star’ role

PITTSBURGH — John Tortorella will be behind the bench of one All-Star team to be named later when the NHL All-Star Game is played in Ottawa on Jan. 29. The Rangers coach, who earned the designation by virtue of his team’s position in the Eastern Conference, will be joined by...
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.