It may not be the case.
If you read the NY Post and some NHL beat writer’s Twitter accounts this morning, you have stumbled across some nuggets regarding Marc Staal that have made you overly giddy. Let’s start with Larry Brooks who buried this piece of info in his Devils/Rangers recap from last night’s 4-1 Blueshirts victory:
The Rangers’ ability to surmount the absence of the concussed Marc Staal, their putative No. 1 defenseman who is tracking toward a return next month, is admirable.
Sound intriguing to you? That’s not the best one out there. NHL writer Dave Lozo recently spoke to Marc Staal and was able to get this quote out of him:
Marc Staal on playing in the Winter Classic: “I’m not holding it right out of the question, but that would be pretty tight. We’ll see.”
The past week of increasingly intense workouts have been a ray of hope for a quicker return of Marc Staal to the Rangers’ lineup, but is it really a possibility Staal can come back by Jan 2nd to play in the Winter Classic?
Follow after the jump for more.
The biggest hurdle Marc Staal has to overcome – besides consistently not feeling any headaches after any of his workouts – is to be cleared by doctors for contact, which has yet to happen. Staal has gotten the chance to skate with his teammates and participate in some on-ice drills - making him feel like a “hockey player” again - which has sped up his recovery process. Fortunately, no one has learned of any setbacks so it would seem Staal’s path to returning is heading in the right direction.
As for Staal not ruling out playing in the Winter Classic, he would need to be cleared for contact very soon in order to ramp up his practice schedule to get himself closer to game shape. It’s a fine line, because the Rangers desperately need their defense to get healthy again and to get back their #1 defenseman would be an immense boost. However, they desperately can’t afford a Sidney Crosby-esque setback with Staal, either.
My take: Assuming there are no set backs, it’s plausible we could see Marc Staal a game-time decision for the Winter Classic a la his brother Jordan Staal last year.