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Rangers ease Marc Staal in as he returns in Winter Classic

Jan 2, 2012, 7:51 PM EDT

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staalsimmonds AP

For the second Winter Classic in a row, a Staal brother made a surprising return from injury. Marc Staal actually received less ice time than Jordan did in the 2011 Winter Classic, but the New York Rangers were still heartened to see their crucial defenseman back in action in the 2012 edition.

Andrew Gross reports that Marc Staal made the call during dinner last night after a stomach-churning week of pondering the choice. After “writing off” the possibility of coming back on Jan. 2 for quite some time, Staal began to ponder playing once concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu cleared him for contact a week ago.

Henrik Lundqvist said that Staal’s return “gives the whole team confidence,” even though it was clear that head coach John Tortorella was easing him back into the mix. Staal received 12:41 of ice time, which is well off his 25:44 minutes per game average from last season. Still, Staal said that he felt more comfortable as the Winter Classic went along, as you can see from this video from his post-game press conference.

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