As long as there are no setbacks, Marc Staal was expecting to be ready to rejoin the Rangers for Thursday night’s game against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Of course, whether the veteran defenseman is put right back into the lineup following his Nov. 9 ankle surgery will be a decision made by coach David Quinn.
“We’ll see how these other six [defensemen] are going,” Quinn said before Staal missed his 12th straight game Monday night against the visiting Golden Knights. “They’ve all got to earn their keep. The ‘D’ corps has played well. It’s been a good balance with all three pairings. We’ll address that topic when we have to.”
The morning after a Garden match against the Hurricanes on Nov. 7, the 32-year-old Staal woke up early when his wife told him to clean up after the dog. That’s when Staal noticed the extreme swelling in his ankle. He cleaned up the dog’s mess — no excuse — went back to sleep, and when he woke up again, the swelling had not gone down. He went in to see the training staff, who then sent him to the hospital, where it was clear he had an infection and had to be opened up.
Staal was supposed to be out about two weeks, and he started skating on his own last Tuesday. It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for the player second in seniority on the team behind only Henrik Lundqvist. For the first time in his 13-year career, Staal was a healthy scratch for three straight games starting Oct. 29.
Quinn had said that when Staal is ready, he wants to get him back in the lineup — and now that decision is close.
Winger Jesper Fast was a game-time decision Monday after getting into an awkward collision with Devils defenseman P.K. Subban early in the game Saturday in Newark, missing only a little time before returning. Fast did not take Monday’s morning skate with the rest of his team, but was able to play, starting on a line with Brendan Lemieux and Filip Chytil.
Lundqvist got his seventh start in the past nine games, and Quinn said the plan was for Lundqvist to start again on Friday night at home against the Canadiens. That would leave Thursday in Columbus for Alexandar Georgiev, who shut out the Devils on Saturday and will have started just 10 of the Rangers first 27 games.
“It was a three-game decision,” Quinn said. “We’re going back-to-back, so it was just which game we wanted Georgie to play.”
Boo Nieves remained the healthy scratch, while Micheal Haley remained in for the second straight game.