Marc Staal is not rushing back today (speculation sparked by ESPN’s John Buccigross) and is the right decision from everyone concerned. Given his strong comments relating to any impending Staal comeback, it’s hard to imagine John Tortorella would have sanctioned the pivotal defenseman’s return unless doctors had absolutely cleared him for the game.
Staal’s return shouldn’t have come because Ryan McDonagh is down with the flu. He should come back when he is ready to come back. Whenever Staal returns, there’s likely to be rust. Not many players can have his kind of lay off and return without missing a beat. The Winter Classic, already played in exceptional circumstances, is not a good choice to return even where there’s health permitting, absolutely not.
The Rangers should allow Staal to return later in the week, give him a few more days of hard skating. Another aspect to consider with the game today; don’t underestimate the likelihood of a dirty, physical game against the Flyers (as is the norm); another reason to tread carefully with the Rangers best blue-liner.
If you can insert a quality player in to the line up who is ready to do so then it’s a no-brainer, but clearly Staal isn’t ready – yet. Let’s just hope all the reasons for Staal’s return – whenever that may be – are the right ones.