New York Rangers, Marc Staal
Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

For the first time since taking a cheap shot from Nashville’s Alexei Emelin on Feb. 3, New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was back on the ice with his teammates on Friday.

Marc Staal, who has spent his entire 11-year career with the New York Rangers, returned to practice on Friday. Staal has been out of the lineup since what he considered a nasty, dirty play by Alexei Emelin of the Nashville Predators on Feb. 3.

Staal spoke with Larry Brooks of the New York Post about the incident as the defenseman had something he needed to get off his chest.

I think I put myself in a vulnerable position, but it was a dirty follow-through, whether it was legal or not. I was going into the corner, and when I lost my edge and started to stumble, I knew I was in trouble. “But for him to use his elbow to drive my head into the boards was uncalled for. There is no reason for that.

There was no penalty call on the play nor a review by the NHL’s Player Safety Division. The Rangers went on to lose the game 5-2 and, more damaging, one of their most reliable defenseman for the last seven games. Staal went through a concussion test, which he passed but with his past concussion issues, the Rangers opted to be cautious and keep him out of action.

“We decided better safe than sorry,” Staal told Brooks. “But then starting with the next morning, my neck was really sore for the next week or week-and-a-half and I couldn’t really move my head around without having pain.” Staal is now pain-free and is building up his conditioning so that he can back into game shape before he returns.

Staal was asked about the day the Rangers organization publically admitted that changes would be coming to the team. The veteran defenseman was candid as always. “It was a depressing day, and I was sorry I wasn’t here to go through it with the guys,” said the 31-year-old alternate captain. “It’s not something I’ve ever been through. It’s definitely a new experience for me and a lot of guys. We’ll see.”

Staal has targeted Thursday’s game against Montreal for his return to game action.

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