Marc Staal: Eye won't be the same

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Marc Staal said he does not expect his injured right eye to ever make a full recovery, but he does expect to resume playing at the highest level possible.

The New York Rangers' 26-year-old defenseman sustained a small tear in his right eye after taking a puck to the face in a game against the Flyers March 5. He missed 27 regular-season games and 11 playoff games as a result.

"It's probably not going to be 100 percent," Staal said of his injury, "but that's not to say it's not going to get a lot better. It's still improving."

Asked about his potential to get back to playing at the level he was playing before suffering the injury, Staal said: "My belief is that once everything settles down and I get comfortable with it, I'll never have to be asked about it again. I don't think it'll be an issue."

Staal said the injury was frightening and admitted that he immediately wondered whether it could threaten his career.

"Scary injury," he said. "One of the first things, when you're sitting on the table, going through your head is if you're going to be able to see again. I was fortunate it wasn't worse."

Though Staal did return for one game -- Game 3 of the team's first-round series against the Capitals -- he still struggled to adjust to some lingering issues.

Pressure in his eye spiked and dropped, causing Staal dizziness and disorientation. Staal also said that his eye would, at times, cramp up and cause him headaches.

"It would be tough to get through a practice, never mind a game," Staal said.

Those issues resurfaced after he tried playing, and despite tinkering with different medication and eye drops, Staal didn't feel comfortable enough to return.

Staal, who also missed half of last season with a concussion, believes having time off during the summer will help.

The loss of Staal was a costly one to the Rangers, who rely on his steadying presence and size on the back end.

"When Marc Staal was injured -- and he's had a tough couple of years here -- he was playing his best hockey I've seen him play since I've been here," coach John Tortorella said. "That hurt us."

Staal, who now wears a long visor to protect his eye, said he recently voted in an informal NHLPA poll in favor of mandatory visor use.

He used to be in favor of grandfathering the rule in, but now thinks it should be implemented across the board.

He was not wearing a visor when he sustained the injury.

"Having gone through what I did," Staal said, "I don't want anyone else to do that."