Staal did not make the trip with the team to Europe, but Friday he was at the Connecticut Whale's practice. That's pretty much where the good news ends as the 24-year-old has not been cleared for contact, which means he is not in game shape. The Record's Andrew Gross was at Whale's practice and reports that Staal skated for a half-hour before the team came on the ice, then stayed on after for more skating (totaling 100 minutes). It was the first time Staal saw the ice since Sunday's practice with the Rangers.
Staal said he's feeling "pretty crappy" because of the layoff between skating and he wasn't sure whether if he would make it to Europe by the team's first game. The blueliner considers himself day to day and plans to skate with with the AHL team Saturday if he doesn't get any headaches from now until then.
While a successful team is comprised of pieces that fit together and all contribute, the stalwart defenseman -- along with goalie Henrik Lundqvist -- is probably one of the two members of the team who is toughest to replace. He and Dan Girardi formed a lock-down duo, and without Staal, the team will have to rely on an even more inexperienced back line. But, the Rangers and Staal need to make sure he's fully healthy before returning to the ice as any further hit could sideline him for even longer.