CALGARY -- Despite the fact that the vision in Marc Staal's right eye remains slightly blurry and always may be, the New York Rangers defenseman is proclaiming himself 100 percent healthy and ready to rediscover his All-Star form starting at training camp in September.
"The eye is still not normal, but I feel back to normal," Staal told NHL.com Tuesday at Canada Olympic orientation camp. "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."
Staal suffered a right-eye injury at Madison Square Garden on March 5, when a slap shot from Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was deflected and struck him just above the eye, flush into the area slightly below his eyebrow.
Staal missed the remainder of the regular season but came back to play with a visor in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals. Staal played 17 minutes and thought he was back, but he had a setback the next day and was done for the season.
Staal spent the bulk of his summer at home in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It wasn't until he went on the ice in mid-July with brothers Jordan Staal and Jared Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes that he realized his hockey career could resume without any more questions.
"I went out with Jordan and Jared for a skate, and after the skate I realized I hadn't thought about it once," Staal said. "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.'"
It was an emotional relief for Staal to come to that realization because he had some serious doubts in the weeks after his injury, even when the doctor told him he likely would be able to resume playing.
"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," Staal said. "That was about a week-and-a-half after [the injury]. They told me originally that I would be all right, but once the blood started flushing out of there they started to see a little more damage. The next thing he said is, 'You're still going to play.' But you still don't know if you're going to get back to that level, and obviously that's what I have to prove. I'm anxious to do that."
Staal said he will continue to wear a visor, but he's going to try a tinted shield because it takes away any sensitivity his right eye has toward light.
He also said he's using his injury as motivation not only to get back into top form for the Rangers, but to prove to the decision-makers with the Canadian Olympic team that he belongs at the 2014 Sochi Games.
"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."
Ruff turns to Julien for research on Seguin
One of the small benefits to being here this week for Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff was the fact he got to bend the ear of Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien about Tyler Seguin, the former Bruins player who could become the Stars' No. 1 center.
Ruff said he asked Julien several questions about Seguin, most geared toward what type of player he is and can be.
"It was about his move back to the middle of the ice, why he went to right wing," Ruff told NHL.com. "How he handled him. Where does he think he can be best utilized? They're all questions a coach would ask another coach."
Ruff wasn't specific when he was asked if any off-ice issues came up in his talks with Julien, but said Seguin's past possible transgressions will not be part of the conversation when Dallas training camp opens.
"All young players have challenges; maybe his have made the highlights," Ruff said. "In my eyes he's going to start with a clean slate. I have had players that had situations that any normal young guy would go through. They make bad decisions sometimes. Some of those bad decisions get out in the public and some of them don't. Some of his have, but I look at it as we're going to start clean, move forward, and he's excited about getting a fresh start."
Alzner likes Grabovski signing for Capitals
Even though Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee seemed content to stay quiet in free agency, defenseman Karl Alzner was waiting for something to happen to help the team replace second-line center Mike Ribeiro.
McPhee finally made some noise last week when he signed Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million contract. Alzner said he has since done some research on his new teammate and is pleased with what he has discovered.
"I've heard he's a really good team guy and that he plays responsibly at both ends," Alzner told NHL.com. "He's from Belarus, and that's not the first thing that normally comes to mind; there are few guys that are like that. I wasn't sure if he was another one of those guys that would be high-flying and putting a ton of pucks in the net for us. It was nice to hear that he's going to be helping me out back there.
"I've asked a lot of people about him and it sounds like he will be a great fit for the team and I'm fired up for that."
Tavares sees teammate as 'dark horse' for Canada
As close as New York Islanders center John Tavares is to being a lock to make the Canada Olympic team, his NHL teammate, defenseman Travis Hamonic, is probably the biggest long shot among the 45 players attending the orientation camp. Tavares said that shouldn't be the case.
"I think people around the League are really going to see what a special player Travis is with his all-round game, the way he can skate, the way he plays the top players physically, in their face and tough, and he brings an offensive side to the game as well," Tavares told NHL.com. "That chip on his shoulder, that kind of western boy, it really works well for him. He's really stepped up his game. He does everything well."
Hamonic, one of 17 defensemen in the camp, had 10 points and averaged nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game while playing in all situations for the Islanders last season. His ice time went up to 25 minutes per game in the six-game series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
"I know the character he has, the kind of guy he is, how motivated he is, and I know how much he prides himself on playing against guys like [Claude] Giroux and [Sidney] Crosby and [Rick] Nash in our division," Tavares said. "In the playoffs he really stepped up for us. To see him here [in Calgary] is not a surprise. I think he's maybe even a dark horse here."
Seabrook gives his baby boy a number
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook credits his wife, Dayna, with giving their newborn son Carter a unique middle name significant to the doting first-time dad and "Seinfeld" fans everywhere: Seven.
"It was something she just said and we talked about it," said Seabrook, who wears No. 7 for the Stanley Cup champions. "We had the first name picked out for a while and we were sitting in the hospital room and just decided on that. I haven't really heard too much from [teammates], but I'm sure I'll get some reactions when we get back to Chicago."
"Seinfeld" fans know Seven was the name George Costanza wanted to give to his potential firstborn to honor his idol, Mickey Mantle. Seabrook said he hasn't seen that episode of the sitcom, but he's definitely heard about it.
"It was just sort of something Dayna thought was cool," Seabrook said. "She brought it up."
This and that
In sit-down interviews Tuesday at Canada Olympic orientation camp, NHL Network host Mark Roe asked seven players who they would pick if they had the No. 1 selection in a fantasy hockey draft. Jordan Staal, Dan Boyle, Corey Perry, Alex Pietrangelo, Corey Crawford and Taylor Hall said Sidney Crosby. The other player who was asked the question was Rick Nash, and he said Steven Stamkos.
Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry said he doesn't know much about new teammate Jakob Silfverberg, who was acquired in the trade that sent Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators. Perry told NHL.com all he's heard is Silfverberg has skill and can score goals. Perry said he was delighted to hear that because he's concerned about the Ducks replacing Ryan's production, and it's still up in the air if Teemu Selanne is going to return or retire.
Marc Staal said he spoke to Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis about new Rangers coach and former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Hamhuis had plenty of questions for Staal about John Tortorella, the new Canucks coach who comes to Vancouver after four-plus seasons with the Rangers. "We traded notes," Staal said.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had a witty response to learning The Hockey News has predicted his team will be 2014 Stanley Cup champions: "I guess that's better than being on the bottom," Bouwmeester said. "I think the Toronto Blue Jays were picked to win the World Series, weren't they? I wouldn't put a lot of faith into it."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
"It's probably the hardest lineup in the world to crack. I can play any position. I'll do whatever they want. If I'm in Sochi, I'll be happy. I'm willing to do anything to be part of this team."
"To me it's all part of the life of a hockey player. Sometimes things change, and obviously contract negotiations are a part of it. It's a two-way street. It always can't be one way. I'm not focusing on it because if the player is not available then we have to have somebody else filling that position. As a coach you can only coach the players that are available to you."
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