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NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers will be without one of their top defensemen when they host the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night as Marc Staal will sit out with "neck issues," according to coach Alain Vigneault.
After a hard hit to the chin Saturday night from New Jersey's Reid Boucher in the third period, Staal left the ice and spiked his helmet in frustration as he walked down the tunnel toward the trainer's room.
The injury is of utmost concern to the Rangers, particularly considering Staal's unfortunate injury history in recent years. He missed 36 games in 2011-12 with a severe concussion and missed more than half of the lockout-shortened 2013 season with a frightening eye injury.
It is not clear how long the injury is expected to sideline Staal, though any length of time without the steady 26-year-old blueliner will be a significant blow to the team's back end.
Michael Del Zotto will replace him in the lineup Sunday, with Benoit Pouliot also returning in place of veteran center Dominic Moore, whose play, according to Vigneault, has "slipped a little."