Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Tuesday what fans, players, coaches, and management had feared since last Saturday, that defenseman Marc Staal suffered a concussion when hit in the jaw by the shoulder of New Jersey's Reid Boucher during the third period of the Blueshirts 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils Saturday night.
"Marc has bee diagnosed with a concussion and he's being watched by our doctors," explained Vigneault following the Rangers morning skate at The Garden on Tuesday. "They don't feel it's as serious as what he might have had in the past. He's feeling better, so we'll take it day by day."
Two years ago Staal missed the first 36 games of the 2011-12 season because of a concussion he originally suffered late in the previous season on an unfortunate hit delivered by his older brother Eric down in Carolina. Staal clearly knew something not good had taken place Saturday after the Boucher shoulder to his jaw because after skating off the ice he fired his helmet down in anger, a rare display of negative emotion from the stoic Blueshirt.
Staal, of course, also missed more than half of last season due to a serious eye injury after being struck by a deflected puck, so his frustration and anger are well warranted. The Rangers do not know how long he is expected to be out of the lineup this time around.
With Staal absent from the team's top four on defense, Michael Del Zotto has been slotted in next to Anton Stralman to fill Staal's spot. Del Zotto played nearly 21 minutes Sunday, the first game Staal missed due to the injury, and picked up an assist on Benoit Pouliot's goal while posting an Even plus/minus rating.
Vigneault was asked Tuesday if having Staal out of the lineup would mean added responsibility for the team's top defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
"(McDonagh) is already playing big minutes against top line players, so I'm not quite sure how much more I can ask out of him because his minutes are already pretty high," responded the head coach. "What I need are some of the other guys, who for quite some time probably have been hoping for a bigger role and a bigger opportunity — well, here it is, grab it."
Vigneault also stated that there is no reason for a defenseman to be recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack, especially with the Rangers playing their next seven games on home ice and Hartford being so close in proximity to New York.