GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Marc Staal said he doesn't think his injured right eye will ever fully recover, but the New York Rangers defenseman expects to come back next season and be the same player he was before a deflected shot effectively ended his 2012-13 season in early March.
"My belief is once everything settles down and I get comfortable with it, I'll never have to be asked about it again," Staal said Monday when the Rangers met the media for the final time this season. "I don't think it will be an issue."
Staal said his biggest problem once the swelling subsided was a small cut in his eye that caused it to cramp and resulted in him feeling disoriented and dizzy. He said that was the problem he experienced after playing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals -- the only game Staal played after he was struck in the eye by Kimmo Timonen's deflected slap shot during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 5.
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 0 | +/-: -1
"It was tough getting through a practice, never mind trying to play in a game," said Staal, who was not wearing a visor when he was hit by the shot.
Even though defenseman Anton Stralman stepped up, and John Moore stepped in after being traded to New York on April 3, the Rangers had no one who could replace Staal's minutes or his effectiveness.
"When he was injured he was playing his best hockey that I've seen him play since I've been here," coach John Tortorella said. "That hurt us. You can call it an excuse, whatever you want to call it, but it did hurt us in our back end."
Staal said he felt he was able to play in Game 3 against the Capitals -- with a long visor attached to his helmet -- because the eye was behaving and he wasn't experiencing too many problems. He suffered a setback the following day and never felt comfortable enough to get back in the lineup.
"After I played something went on with the eye -- the tear wouldn't regulate properly -- so we were constantly changing medications and eye drops and things to get it settled down and the next day it just started cramping up and was giving me a headache and made me dizzy," Staal said. "After that it was trying to figure it out again and it was taking some time."
Staal said he was getting close to coming back last week, but the Rangers were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.
"I was skating, I was starting to feel a little better on the ice and starting to come back to where I was feeling good and comfortable again," Staal said.
Staal said he feels lucky the injury isn't worse.
"Obviously it could not have happened, but the fact that it did and I was able to regain basically full sight in that eye where it's not really affecting what I see peripherally was a relief," Staal said. "We'll just keep going and hopefully it keeps improving."
Staal will continue to wear the long visor and said he voted to make visors mandatory for every player right now in a survey conducted by the National Hockey League Players' Association.
"Before I was for grandfathering it in," Staal said. "Obviously guys don't want to wear it, and I would probably be the same way if I didn't get hit, but having gone through what I did, I don't want anybody else to do that."