November 11, 2011
According to the New York Post, Marc Staal(notes) of the New York Rangers hasn't simply been out of the lineup since the start of the season — he's been shut down completely for the last month, on the advice of concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu, who will reexamine the standout defenseman next week.
It's a surprise, considering Staal was undergoing treatment in September, including acupuncture and a cortisone shot in his neck. He appeared on the road back to the Rangers; his physician, however, took him off the road.
Staal's shadow looms over Friday night's game between the Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes. It's the first meeting of the season between the two and the first time Eric Staal(notes) has seen the Rangers since concussing his brother on this hit back on Feb. 22:
Brotherly love, indeed.
As Marc Staal has remained out of the lineup, there's been rampant speculation about how his injury has affected his big brother and how the Rangers will respond to their alternate captain's absence when Eric Staal comes to MSG.
Should the Rangers seek retribution for the injury?
In his preview of tonight's game, Scotty Hockey has Staal in focus:
Eric Staal. The elder brother has been atrocious this season with just five points and is an awful -16. It would appear that he is suffering mentally for the physical pain he gave unto his brother. While it would just be ceremonial, watch to see if anyone will go after him.
Andrew Gross of The Record asked a few Rangers about that in anticipation of tonight's tilt. Dan Girardi(notes), Marc Staal's defensive partner, said it's a "weird situation" and "we'll see how it goes on the ice. It was a freak thing. Obviously, it was not his intent to injure him."
Sauer said he figures Eric Staal smiled at first and thought, "Yeah, I got him good," at the time of the hit, but that quickly turned to a sick feeling about the consequences. "You take it all away and, at the end of the day, they're family," Sauer said. "If he could take it back, I'm sure he would.
"He's a good player and he plays hard," Sauer added. "We're going to key on him because he's a big player for them. If it means we rub him out, that's what we'll do."
"We're missing one of our best players because of that hit, whether the hit was very dirty or not," Brandon Prust told The Post following yesterday's practice. "But with it being between brothers, it's definitely a unique circumstance.
"We're obviously going to go out and play a hard, physical game, and we'll certainly finish our checks against Eric, but we can't afford to lose our heads and take any stupid penalties over this. … I hope maybe sometime over the summer when Eric was sleeping, Marc found the way to get some payback."
As for Eric Staal, he's discussed his hit a dozen times since the incident and again this week as the Hurricanes visited New York for the first time. He told NHL.com that it was difficult seeing his brother unable to train consistently in the offseason due to reoccurring post-concussion symptoms, adding that he had no intention of injuring him:
"I mean, if it was anyone else I would have done the same thing," Eric said. "That's the hard part about it. It's total hindsight, and it doesn't change anything. He knows that, I know that. That's the way it is."
An undeniable facet of this situation: Eric Staal's terrible start to the season.
He's tallied 5 points in 15 games, skating to a minus-16. He's had slow starts before, but rarely this ineffective. Coach Paul Maurice was asked if Marc's injury was playing in Eric's mind:
"He's a big, strong man," Maurice said. "This isn't a guy who's hiding in the corner. He'll answer your questions.
"I think if it had been a bad hit it might have affected him more. I think they had delivered the same kind of hits on each other every single time they'd played each other."
Eric again said the situation with Marc is not affecting his play or his slow start this season, saying firmly, "It has nothing to do with it." But he did concede it has been hard on the Staal family.
"(Marc) has a passion and a love for the game and he can't play right now," Staal said. "It's tough for him, it's tough for me and it's tough for everybody in the family ... They feel for Marc and they feel for me, being put in that spot. … But he'll recover fully. He'll be back playing like himself."
Had it been a dirtier hit — some, like Larry Brooks of the Post, still view it as "a mean, high, albeit not penalized" check — perhaps the lust for retribution would be greater for the Rangers. But the circumstances being what they are in this brother-on-brother violence, it feels like there's an underlying remorse that will prevent any retribution.