Telling reporters that it was "better to be safe than sorry" after suffering a head injury last Saturday on a hit delivered by Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, Rangers forward Viktor Stalberg returned to practice with his teammates Thursday at the MSG Training Center.
Following the on-ice workout Stalberg said that he "felt good", and is eager to return to the lineup when coaches and team doctors deem he is ready. Head coach Alain Vigneault later stated that Stalberg would not play Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but would be available to the team after that.
"Viktor has been cleared (to play, by doctors)," explained Vigneault. "Today was his first day back to practice with the group so I'm going to give him one more day. I'm sure if I need him next Tuesday (against the Washington Capitals) he'll be ready."
Added Stalberg, "It was a short practice and I was filling in on D for most of it, but it was just good to get back out there and move around and take part in everything with the group here. Hopefully I'll be ready to go pretty soon."
Emerson Etem will remain in the lineup, skating in Stalberg's spot on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jarret Stoll Friday night.
As for Gudas' hit last Saturday, Stalberg said "I never saw him coming, but it is what it is. He's good at stepping up and making big hits, but I think he hits me in the head. The league made a decision and so be it."
Stalberg is 1-4-5 in nine games played so far this season. He sat out Sunday's 4-1 home-ice victory over the Calgary Flames.