Injured New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal was cleared for contact, and took a few bumps on the ice from his teammates as he continues his recovery from a concussion.
Staal, who will turn 25 in January, has been out all season because of the effects of a concussion sustained in February when he was hit by his brother, Eric, of the Carolina Hurricanes. He has been skating in recent days and was cleared for light contact.
Staal was on the Madison Square Garden ice Monday morning in advance of the Rangers' game against the New York Islanders. There is still no timetable for his return to game action.
After skating on consecutive days last week, Staal talked to concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu and was told he could have contact following the two-day Christmas break if he felt well enough.
"I did some battle drills, took some hits," Staal said. "I don't feel great after two days off, but I feel good enough physically to do it. It feels really good. It's been a long time. It's the next step to get back to playing.
"I don't feel like I'm ready to play 25 minutes (per game) like last year. Obviously, getting more contact, getting more hits, that's the best way to tell if I'm ready to take it into a game -- getting hit and getting into the grind of the season."
The next step for Staal is seeing how he feels in the coming days and then working out a plan with doctors and trainers. Staal said he feels confident he can take a hit and doesn't have apprehension about being ready to play harder.
"I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring," he said Monday. "There's no doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do. I knew they weren't going to run me into the glass. It feels like I'm a step behind, knowing where they're going and what they're going to do."
Once he is fully recovered from the injury, Staal will need time to get back into playing shape. He said he still needs work on his conditioning.