Marc Staal will play for the first time since Dec. 7 when the Rangers take on the Panthers in Florida tomorrow night.
“I talked to [head coach Alain Vigneault] and said I wanted to play and he said I’m in,” Staal said, per the Bergen Record. “(Missing time) sucks, it’s frustrating, you want to be out there helping the team win games.
“I’m excited to just get back out there and be a part of it on the ice again.”
Staal has missed the last 10 games with a concussion, suffered during a 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils after a crushing hit to the jaw from New Jersey’s Reid Boucher. It was the second concussion he’s suffered recently, having missed 36 games to start the 2011-12 season following a hit from his brother, Carolina captain Eric Staal.
Getting Staal back will be a big boost for the Rangers. They’re already without Anton Stralman and recently called up Conor Allen from the AHL (Allen, a rookie, made his NHL debut last game.) Staal was averaging 20 minutes per game prior to getting hurt, though he only had two points and one assist through 30 games.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.