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Staal skates prior to Rangers' practice @NHLdotcom

New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal appeared in good spirits Tuesday when he spoke to reporters after skating on his own before the team practiced at the MSG training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y.

Staal has missed the past 18 games after being struck just above the eye with a puck that was deflected by Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek during a game March 5 at Madison Square Garden.

"The fractures are good, and the vision isn't 100 percent yet, but every week, it's gotten better," Staal said. "Hopefully it keeps on healing and gets better.

"I want to be back as soon as I can, and now I want to get back in the best shape as I possible," he continued. "We'll still monitor the eye and take it one step at time. There's no timeline or a date I'm looking at to get back. I'm just going to work as hard as I can and keep talking to the doctors and take it from there."

The 26-year-old, a first-round draft pick (No. 12) by the Rangers in 2005, was not wearing a visor at the time of the injury, but said he will be wearing one upon his return.

"When I was hit and on the ice, one of the things that went through my mind was, 'I should have been wearing a visor,'" he said. "It's 20/20 hindsight now, but I'll wear one to protect my eyes.

"I was just glad I didn't need surgery and I think, every week or so, the vision would get better. Speaking with guys who shared the same injury has helped as well."

Staal also took a moment to thank everyone for their well-wishes and get-well cards.

"It's been tough … that first week was pretty scary," Staal said. "I don't think my wife slept the first four nights, wiping blood off my eye and off my face. She's been huge at home, as have been my parents and brothers. It's amazing how small the hockey world is and how many reach out to wish you as well. The amount of information you can get is great."

At the time of his injury, Staal had two goals, 11 points and a plus-4 rating in 21 games, averaging 24:27 of ice time.

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