The New York Rangers' best defensemen, Marc Staal, has yet to play a game this year due to post concussion syndrome.  Monday, he was cleared for contact.  The announcement paves the way for his return to the team.  

During an offseason that brought a lot of change to Madison Square Garden, Marc Staal was named an Assistant Captain of the New York Rangers.  The rugged defensemen has yet to assume that post, however, due to the ill after affects of a concussion that he suffered last February.  The hit that left the Ranger defensemen concussed, off the shoulder of his brother Eric Staal, did not keep him from finishing the 2010-2011 season, but the post-workout headaches and dizziness that it caused has kept him out all of this season.  Today, the missing half of what would be one of the best defensive tandems in the league was cleared for contact.  The good news from team doctors means that, at this point, conditioning is the only factor keeping Staal from the Ranger lineup.

Concussions and post-concussion syndrome has been a trend in the NHL lately.  Similar issues have cost Flyers Captain Chris Pronger the remainder of this 2011-2012 season, and kept Sidney Crosby out until just weeks ago. Crosby has since been forced to, once again, step away from his team after the issues resurfaced.  Understandably, the Rangers have been cautious with Staal, but the club will be eager to have him back in the lineup.

It's a lineup that hasn't seemed to need Staal this season.  The Rangers are currently in first place in their division.  Without Staal the Rangers still boast a defense that is third in the league in goals against and seventh in penalty kill percentage.  Offensively, the Rangers are only ninth in goals for, but Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan and a host of others, are scoring at a far more prolific pace than Ranger fans have seen in a long time.

It's an exciting time at Madison Square Garden, with the Rangers appearing to be a legitimate contender for the first time in years.  Perhaps this is the year Ranger fans don't have to eagerly watch the final game of the season hoping for an eight seed.  There's a bright future ahead for the Blueshirts, made all the more bright by the (hopefully) impending return of Marc Staal.