It looks like the All-Star break was just what the doctor ordered for Marc Staal. The Rangers’ most-expensive defenseman will likely make his return to the lineup tomorrow against the Blue Jackets.
It will be Staal’s first game since January 3rd. The homegrown defenseman suffered a concussion in a game against the Sabres. Staal told the media that he feels like he is at “100 percent” today at practice.
If Staal does skate tomorrow, it will likely mean that Adam Clendening will once again be a healthy scratch. Captain Ryan McDonagh didn’t skate during today’s practice, but he was almost certainly just getting some rest after playing in the All-Star Game.
Clendening had five points in the nine games he played while Staal was on the mend.
Jesper Fast, who has missed four straight games, will also be back in the lineup for the Rangers. And it appears that his return to the ice will bump Oscar Lindberg out of the lineup. An upper-body injury was keeping the Swedish winger off the ice.
Lindberg saw less than 10 minutes of ice time in the Rangers last five games.
The other Ranger that is finally healthy again is backup goaltender Antti Raanta. Magnus Hellberg was sent down to the AHL before the All-Star break, so no one was surprised when Raanta was on the ice with the Rangers at practice today.
Raanta suffered a lower-body injury in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on January 14th. He has been out of the lineup since. Hellberg made four saves in 19 minutes of play as Raanta’s replacement.
Kevin Hayes is now the only Ranger off the ice. Alain Vigneault expects him to be back on the ice “in the next little while.” Hayes’ injury, suffered during a knee-on-knee collision on January 23rd, was projected to keep him out of the lineup for 2-3 weeks.
The Rangers play the Blue Jackets tomorrow at the Garden at 7:00pm.