Coach David Quinn said he’s itching to get Marc Staal back into the Rangers’ lineup as the veteran defenseman begins eyeing his return.
Staal has been sidelined for three weeks since undergoing surgery to cure an infection in his ankle, which festered from a cut he sustained on a blocked shot earlier in the season. Quinn is hoping to give Staal a full week of skating and practice before getting him back into a game.
But Staal has his sights set on playing as early as next week.
“I feel good,” Staal said following Thursday’s Thanksgiving practice. “If everything goes well, I have to talk to the doctors and everyone, but next week — assuming if everything goes well should be good to go.”
Thursday was Staal’s third day skating, but his first official practice with the team since having the surgery on Nov. 8. He mentioned it wasn’t the first time he suffered a cut from blocking shots, but he had never had the injury escalate the way this one did.
“I’m itching to get him back,” Quinn said. “Obviously, he’s a guy that brings an awful lot to the table. When you put a team together, you can’t put all the same types of players together. He’s a guy with a lot of experience. He’s got size, he plays well, he defends well, he does a lot of good things for us. So I’m itching to get him back. It’s a nice problem to have.”
Staal apparently began wearing new skates before the infection approached a dangerous state, which he believes may have contributed to the extra friction between the skate and his cut. Doctors had to make incisions on the inside and outside of Staal’s ankle before flushing it out with antibiotics. He was on an IV drip and in a walking boot for a couple of weeks.
Quinn wouldn’t say how the defensive pairings would pan out once Staal was healthy enough to play again. The 32-year-old defenseman skated with Tony DeAngelo against the Hurricanes on Nov. 7, which was the last game he played before the surgery.
“It’s gotten better every day,” Staal said. “Mobility has come back and the strength is starting to come.There’s still some pain and discomfort there but it’s not too bad.”
Quinn was particularly thrilled with how Mika Zibanejad’s return to the Rangers’ first line opened up the use of the other three lines in Wednesday’s win over the Hurricanes.
“It’s amazing what one player does, especially a center,” Quinn said. “All your lines look different. Just standing behind the bench, not that I hadn’t felt comfortable before, but there’s another level of comfort that you feel as a coach when you’ve got those four lines.It just felt like we were in a better position because of the depth that one player added throughout our lineup.”
There is no timeline on Greg McKegg’s (lower body) return to the lineup.
“[He’s] day to day,” Quinn said. “He skated yesterday, [we] held him off today. We don’t think it’s long term.”
Henrik Lundqvist will make his third straight start against the Bruins on Friday, while Quinn plans to go with Alexandar Georgiev in net against the Devils on Saturday afternoon.
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