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Marc Staal back at practice, still no timetable for return to Rangers

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

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New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was back on the ice on Tuesday, cleared to practice for the first time since taking a puck to the eye on March 5.

After doing some skating, Staal spoke with the media for the first time since the injury and explained how he hopes to be able to return before the season ends on April 27 and be ready should the Rangers make the playoffs. Although he is hopeful, there is no official timetable for a return yet.

Considering Staal just returned to skating, he's not going to be ready to resume playing quite yet. He said that while the fractures have pretty much healed, his vision is still an issue. Specifically, he does not have his peripheral vision back in his injured eye, scarily similar to what Chris Pronger said about his eye injury.

When Pronger was discussing his difficulty with peripheral vision, he mentioned how critical it is for a defenseman in the NHL. It helps a player with that "sixth sense," that ominpresent awareness of what's going on around you. Not only does it diminish a player's effectiveness without that peripheral vision, it's dangerous.

Of course Staal couldn't go through the media session without being asked for his take on visors, something that Staal didn't wear before the injury. Staal said he actually regrets not wearing one before.

Carolina Hurricanes forwards Eric and Jordan -- who are Marc's brothers -- also didn't wear visors before the injury to Marc -- but recently the two decided to give visors a try and are sticking with them. Surely we'll see Marc with a visor on when he gets back on the ice.

The NHLPA said after the GM meetings that it plans on revisiting the visor issue with players this offseason and they could perhaps vote to put in a grandfather clause that would require any new player to wear a visor but any player currently in the NHL could use his discretion.

The Rangers would love to get Staal back on the ice as soon as possible. In 21 games before the injury, Staal had two goals and nine assists while playing 24:47 per game, a hard hole to fill. While defense hasn't necessarily been the Rangers' problem, they could use a little more help in getting the puck up the ice and out of the defensive zone.

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