Marc Staal declared himself 100 percent at yesterday’s Canada Olympic orientation camp in Calgary. The 26-year old defenseman expects to be ready for the beginning of Rangers training camp which starts on September 12.
It was on Mar. 5 that he took a puck to the right eye from Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. A scary scene that saw the injured defenseman in serious pain bleeding was humbling. At the time, like many players he wasn’t wearing a visor. Now, he and Ranger teammate Dan Girardi will put on face shields to help protect themselves. The Rangers sent out a tweet Monday.
“The eye is still not normal, but I feel back to normal,” he told NHL.com after missing 27 regular season games and 11 playoff games. “I don’t see myself having any issues once camp starts. It’ll be good to get into camp to get that timing and feeling back, but I’m excited for that to get that started, get that rolling.
“When you’re sitting in the doctor’s office and he tells you your eye probably won’t come back to normal, that was a hard day.”
It took Staal a while to feel comfortable on the ice again. During the second round series, he returned and played 17 minutes in Game 3 against Boston. However, the comeback was short lived with the Rangers alternate captain shutting it down. He still experienced dizziness and headaches. It took until last month for him to regain confidence. During a practice with brothers Jordan and Jared, he felt better.
“After the skate I realized I hadn’t thought about it once,” Staal pointed out. “While I was doing all the drills, quick drills, things like that, my focus wasn’t on thinking about what I was doing, it was more about just doing it. Right after that skate I was like, ‘OK, this is going to be fine.'”
At the time of the injury, he was playing the best hockey of his career. Something former coach John Tortorella noted following season’s conclusion. With an opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympics once again, he feels he has something to prove. If he makes the cut, Staal could see a familiar face there with Rick Nash also participating. Both were part of Canada’s gold medal winning team in Vancouver.
“It’s motivation to get to that high level right away, to not have any doubts from myself, the coaching staff or anyone else,” he said. “It’s motivation to get back to how I was playing in those 20 games before I got injured and just go from there. I was feeling really good about where I was and how I was playing [before the injury], so hopefully now it’s just a bump in the road and I never look back.”