UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: John Tortorella met with members of the media and announced that Marc Staal will make his season debut in today's Winter Classic.
"He'll play on the third pair today and we'll make changes to our lineup as we go through," he told the media at an unexpected press conference. "We're not making changes on our lineup, we're not putting him in a top four position. We'll make judgements about his game as he goes along here and as he gets playing again."
Tortorella will ease Staal back into the lineup, much like the Penguins did with Sidney Crosby earlier this year.
Staal, who has missed all 36 games this season with post-concussion syndrome, was rumored to be targeting the Winter Classic for his return, much like his brother Jordan was this time last year. However the Rangers ruled Staal out of the game over the weekend. John Tortorella announced he would feature the same lineup as their previous game, a 4-1 victory over Florida on Friday.
With the Blueshirts already getting all-star caliber play from Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, adding a healthy Staal into the mix easily gives them the strongest defensive unit in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire league.
This is a huge lift to the Rangers lineup, not only for today's game, but for the rest of the season, if he can avoid further injury. While that may be a big if, it would seem as though the rich just got richer on Broadway.
UPDATE 12:40 p.m.: Dave Lozo tweets it's very possible that Tortorella will announce Staal is back while meeting with the media at 12:45. (H/T to @IAmARangerXX)
According to Nick Montemagno of The Rangers Tribune, the Rangers will hold an unexpected press conference at 12:45 today, less than three hours before puck drop of today's NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic game against the Flyers.
Could this mean the return of Marc Staal? After officially being ruled out of the game, John Buccigross tweeted that he was hearing Staal could play today.
Now, with Ryan McDonagh fighting the flu, and no other viable defensive options in town, the Rangers may be thinking twice about Staal's availability. It was widely speculated that the all-star Blueshirts rearguard was 2-3 games away from returning, but a number of factors may have accelerated that process.
Stay with Tonight's Healthy Scratches for breaking news on this story.