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Rangers' Staal sidelined with sore neck

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal will not play Sunday night against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden due to a sore neck.

Staal was forced to leave the Rangers' 3-2 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday after a hit from rookie forward Reid Boucher.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault revealed the neck issues were causing Staal to have "some symptoms," but would not elaborate on whether or not Staal was dealing with the same concussion issues that forced him to miss 36 games in 2011-12. Staal also missed 27 regular-season games last season following a scary eye injury caused by a deflected puck.

"Marc at this time is being treated for neck issues that are causing him to have some symptoms. We're not sure yet if the symptoms are caused because of the neck issues caused from the hit last night," Vigneault said before the game Sunday. "Obviously with his history, we're taking precautions. We'll probably know more here in the next day or two."

Michael Del Zotto will replace Staal in the lineup and forward Benoit Pouliot will play after being a healthy scratch against the Devils. He will replace Dominic Moore.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist will start again for the Rangers, but he won't be meeting his familiar foe in Braden Holtby, whom he met seven times in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

After playing 11 of the team's previous 12 games, Holtby will get a break Sunday. Philipp Grubauer will make his second career start for the Capitals. In his only other appearance this season, Grubauer relieved Holtby on Dec. 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes and stopped all nine shots he faced.

"It's a back-to-back for both teams. I just felt like Gruby needs a game. We need our other guy to play. It's a chance for him," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "I know it's a tough environment, but what isn't now? Holts can't play them all. He's played a lot of games. We've got confidence in Gruby."

Oates also revealed he had not yet decided whether Patrick Wey or Steve Oleksy would play on defense against the Rangers. Oleksy was a healthy scratch Saturday in a 5-2 home win against the Nashville Predators,

Here are the projected lineups for Sunday:


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson

Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer

Joel Ward - Jason Chimera - Martin Erat

Aaron Volpatti - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

John Carlson - Nate Schmidt

Dmitry Orlov - Patrick Wey

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Steve Oleksy, Alexander Urbom

Injured: Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Jack Hillen (tibia surgery), Brooks Laich (groin), John Erskine (upper body)


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Mats Zuccarello - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Carl Hagelin - Derick Brassard - JT Miller

Taylor Pyatt - Brian Boyle - Benoit Pouliot

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh

Anton Stralman - Michael Del Zotto

John Moore - Justin Falk

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Dominic Moore

Injured: Marc Staal (neck), Derek Dorsett (wrist)

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