Eric Staal has barely seen his family since joining the Rangers on Feb. 29.
Days after Eric Staal made his Rangers debut on Feb. 29 at the Garden, which came a day after the longtime Hurricane waived his no-trade clause to accept a move to the Blueshirts, Staal’s family returned to its home in Raleigh. Staal hasn’t seen his wife, Tanya, or his three young sons, Parker, Levi and Finley, for most of March, during which he’s communicated with them a lot through FaceTime.
“It was tough,” Staal says. “I’ve got three boys, 6, 4 and 1, and when Dad’s not around, it’s different.”
So with three days between Sunday’s overtime loss to Pittsburgh and Thursday’s game at Carolina, Staal’s first game against his former team since the trade, the Rangers gave Staal permission to travel to Raleigh on Monday to spend three days with his family, even allowing him to miss Wednesday’s practice in Greenburgh.
Staal said on a conference call on Tuesday his family will travel to New York on Friday after what surely will be an emotional day Thursday at PNC Arena, where Staal played his home games from 2003 until last month. In 2006, he helped the Hurricanes (who started as the Hartford Whalers) win the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup.
“I guess there’s certain situations and certain things that happen as a player that you don’t really know how you’re going to react; you don’t know how you’ll feel; you don’t know what your emotions will be until you really experience it,” said Eric, who along with Marc will play against brother Jordan on Thursday in front of their parents, Henry and Linda. “I think it’s just gonna be a lot of unique, different emotions just in general because of being there, and being there so long playing in that building as (part of) the home team and (now) being on the opposing side.”
He does know he’ll have to make a left instead of a right to get to the visitors’ locker room. All the adjustments Staal has made are worth it for a chance to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“I’ve been watching this team (the Rangers) on the couch the last couple of years, and I like this team,” Staal said. “I’m excited for this opportunity to join a great team and hoping for a long run and ultimately a Stanley Cup.”
RUSSIAN DRESSING: Top Rangers forward prospect Pavel Buchnevich, who turns 21 on April 17, is expected to sign an entry-level NHL contract eventually to join the Blueshirts for training camp in the fall. His SKA St. Petersburg club was recently eliminated from the KHL playoffs. The Russian 2013 third-round pick will not sign now to join the Hartford Wolf Pack or Rangers, because playing this spring would burn the first year of a three-year entry-level deal. The only way Buchnevich could join the AHL club now without burning a season would be on an ATO (amateur tryout) contract, but that is not even something the Rangers would expect him to do. So fans can look forward to Buchnevich working to crack the roster next season. He wore jersey No. 88 with SKA St. Pete, by the way … The Rangers announced an entry-level agreement with 22-year-old Notre Dame captain Steven Fogarty, whom the club took in the third round of the 2011 draft.