The news the Rangers both dreaded and expected became reality Tuesday morning.
Defenseman Marc Staal is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a concussion after he took a shoulder to the chin from Devils rookie right wing Reid Boucher in the third period of Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss.
“Marc has been diagnosed with a concussion,” head coach Alain Vigneault said after the Rangers early skate at the Garden. “He’s being watched by our doctors. They don’t feel it is as serious as he might have had in the past. He’s feeling better. We’ll take it day by day.”
The concussion is the second Staal has suffered in three years. The defenseman experienced post-concussion symptoms in the summer of 2011 after a hard check by his brother, Hurricanes center Eric Staal, in a game Feb. 22, 2011. The hit caused Staal to miss the first 36 games of the 2011-12 season.
Staal did not play the final 27 games of the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign after being struck near the eye by shot off the stick of Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen in the Rangers 4-2 win on March 5. Staal did return for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Capitals, but not play in the Rangers final nine playoff games last spring.
Vigneault said the organization spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Scott Kutcher, the Michigan-based neurologist who saw Rick Nash when the Rangers' left wing was experiencing post-concussion symptoms earlier this season. But according to Vigneault, Kutcher “doesn’t feel the need to see [Staal] at this point.”
All about competition
As he did following Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Washington, Vigneault criticized the Rangers “compete level.”
The Rangers entered last night’s match against Nashville with a 15-15-1 record, and have lost two in a row.
“I’m disappointed in our compete level,” Vigneault said. “Our consistent compete level is not there the way you need it to be in such a competitive league.”
The Rangers called up Arron Asham from AHL Hartford Monday, but Vigneault stressed physicality and fighting are not the only aspects of improved team toughness he needs to see from his team.
“I look at the Detroit Red Wings, who I know well because I coached against them the last seven years. They have had no toughness per se as far as that type of [fighting] personnel in their lineup, in no point other than maybe [Jordan] Tootoo the last couple years, but he’s gone now.
“But those guys play hard. They have the puck and they say, ‘Try and get it from me.’ Or they don’t have it and they battle like hell to get it back. They compete. That’s the team toughness I’m hoping we would get here. Maybe we’ll get there by changing some personnel [in the lineup] and adding a little bit more toughness. We’re at .500. I’m trying.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.