Flames prospect battles back after surviving blood clot scare

mattpelech1.jpgIt’s not always injuries that occur on the ice that can threaten a player’s career. Sometimes it’s something you don’t realize is there until it’s sometimes too late. Take the case of Calgary Flames. Two years ago, Flames prospect Mickey Renaud died because of a genetic heart condition. This year, prospect Matt Pelech found his road to the NHL slowed down not by an on-ice injury but by a blood clot that put him in the hospital. Vicki Hall of The Calgary Herald outlines his scary story and his road to recovery and rejoining the Flames.

They caught it on a Saturday night in January at the Abbotsford Sport and Entertainment Centre. Pelech was peeling off his equipment in the dressing room after a 4-2 win over Texas.

His defensive partner Keith Aulie gasped.

“Pelly, what’s going on with your arm?”

Pelech looked down. His arm was puffy, swollen and dark blue from the shoulder all the way down to his hand.

Looking back, Pelech remembers feeling his arm go numb in the second period. But he simply figured the funny, tingly sensation came from a pinched nerve or a minor burner.

Hockey players push through pain and discomfort on a nightly basis. This seemed minor. The visual evidence proved otherwise.

Dr. Reg Peters, an emergency room physician, was working the game that night. He took one look at the blue appendage and ordered Pelech to go straight to the Abbotsford hospital.

From there, the medical staff shipped Pelech to a hospital in New Westminster for more tests and a procedure called an AngioJet.

In simple terms, the doctors inserted a sheath into his bicep and sprayed clot-busting material up near the shoulder at the intersection with the first rib.

Didn’t work.

So he hit the road via ambulance again, and headed northbound to Vancouver General Hospital.

Pelech survived the scary ordeal but saw his season get interrupted last year to get fully treated and begin the road to rehabilitation. Hall’s story goes into vastly more detail about what went into helping relieve the blood clot that produced the scary blue arm situation for Pelech. I can’t suggest strongly enough reading the rest of it. For the Flames, this story coming away with a happy ending is a relieving change of pace after what happened to Mickey Renaud.

For Pelech this year, he’s back with the Flames on a one-year, two-way contract which is a great thing. Having to fight his way through to crack the Flames top six on defense might be asking a lot, however. The Flames are set to have Jay Bouwmeester, Cory Sarich, Robyn Regher, Ian White, Steve Staios, Mark Giordano, Adam Pardy and Staffan Kronwall on defense. Ouch. If/when Pelech doesn’t make the Flames, if they want to send him back to the AHL and Abbotsford, they’ll have to put him through waivers to do it. One way or another, Matt Pelech will get to prove his worth on the ice this year instead of in a hospital room and that’s great to see.

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    The Buzzer: Kopitar scores four, McDavid’s four-point night and Olczyk cancer-free

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    Players of the Night:

    Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Two words: career night. Kopitar scored four goals, becoming the first Kings player in 25 years to do so, and thus, setting his own career-high in the process. The Kings decimated the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 in the process.

    Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Bobrovsky made 33 saves en route to a shutout victory, the Blue Jackets’ 10th in a row in a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers, who have been red-hot themselves.

    Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals: Grubauer has been solid in relief of Braden Holtby down the stretch as the Capitals’ No. 1 gets some rest before a playoff push. He won his fourth start out of his past five since March 10, stopping all 39 shots that came his way in the shutout.

    Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: He’s not playing for a playoff spot, and he shouldn’t get too many votes for the Hart Trophy. But McDavid still has his eyes set on Mr. Art Ross. McDavid had two goals and two assists in a 6-2 win for the Oilers over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. McDavid’s 94 points  (36 goals, 58 assists) are now just one shy of Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Above all else, this:

    Hard work pays off:

    Kopitar’s fourth:

    Not everything is pretty when it comes to the Canucks. This is though:

    Factoids of the Night:

    Things you don’t see very often:

    Poor Cam Ward:


    Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 0

    Hurricanes 6, Coyotes 5

    Flyers 4, Rangers 3

    Lightning 7, Islanders 6

    Capitals 1, Red Wings 0

    Maple Leafs 5, Predators 2

    Oilers 6, Senators 2

    Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

    Kings 7, Avalanche 1

    Sharks 2, Golden Knights 1 (OT)

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Sharks drop Golden Knights 2-1 in overtime

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    If the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fixing to be one hell of a series,

    Thursday’s meeting cemented that. The game had all the ingredients that make up that playoff feel — tight play, tight checking, great goaltending and low scoring. There was urgency from both teams, despite both being near locks to make the postseason.

    And it came right down to the last shot of the game.

    Logan Couture scored 39 seconds (ironically, Couture’s jersey number) into overtime to clinch a 2-1 win for the Sharks on Thursday night.

    The Sharks gained a single point on the Golden Knights and are seven points back of Vegas for first in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining. Perhaps most important, they remained four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, who leapfrogged the Anaheim Ducks with a 7-1 win against Colorado. San Jose owns a game in hand on L.A.

    Catching up to Vegas seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. The two teams play each other for the last time next week.

    The loss was bittersweet for the Golden Knights, who set record No. 2321778 for a club in their inaugural season.

    Malcolm Subban made 42 saves, a career-high after being thrust into action following an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Tomas Tartar got the ball rolling in the game 3:47 into the first period to give the Golden Knights an early lead.

    That lead lasted for roughly a period.

    Brent Burns tied the game 1-1 at 3:27 of the second period with the slickest of wrist shots from the point.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Eddie Olczyk declares he’s cancer-free


    It’s the news every hockey fan wanted to hear.

    On Thursday night’s Chicago Blackhawks broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed last summer with colon cancer, told the hockey world some great news.

    “I got the call on March 14 at 5:07 p.m. letting me know my scans were clear,” an emotional Olczyk said as he stood next to long-time broadcast partner Pat Foley. “I’ve never heard a better phrase in my life. I’m now 10 days on with the rest of my life.”

    Olczyk, 51, had surgery after his diagnosis and had his last chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 21.

    “All the cancer is gone – we beat this thing,” Olczyk said, thanking a handful of people, from colleagues at NBC to the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL to his family members, wife and four kids. “And I say ‘we’ because it has been a team effort. We all beat this and I’m so thankful for all the support and prayers. They worked. I’m proud to stand here before everybody and say we beat this thing.”

    Foley called Olczyk’s battle with cancer, “heroic.”

    Olczyk was scheduled to have a scan in April to see how his chemo treatments had gone, but that scan was moved up due to emergency hernia surgery, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    “I’ve had enough crying to last me a lifetime,” Olczyk said. “I can’t emphasize enough just the support out there… just the texts, the email, the letters. I’ve received thousands and thousands of mail. I won’t be able to thank everybody, but I just want everybody to know on behalf of Eddie Olczyk and his family, we’re forever grateful for the support and the prayers and well wishes we received over the past seven months.”

    Olczyk said one thing he realized through his battle is that he found out he was way tougher than he thought he ever was.

    “If I can inspire one person to stay away from this, then I guess it was well worth it going through it,” he said.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings

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    If you were looking for a barn-burner, this game wasn’t that.

    While the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 13 goals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 in total, the Washington Capitals and their hosts, the Detroit Red Wings, played 60 minutes with just one goal between them.

    It wasn’t nearly as exciting in the goal-scoring department, but the win for the Washington Capitals put a bit of separation between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Caps (93 points) lead by four points now.

    Brett Conolly’s third-period marker at 6:41 was all the Capitals needed for their

    Andreas Athanasiou appeared to make it 1-0 in the first period on a nice wrister, but a goaltender interference challenge by Washington was successful after Tyler Bertuzzi was judged to have made contact with Grubauer. This one was pretty cut and dry, as far as GI calls go.

    The loss for the Red Wings meant they were officially eliminated from playoff contention, something that had been known for a while but hadn’t happened in the mathematical department.

    Grubauer was solid, making 39 saves for his third shutout of the season. At the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard wasn’t too shabby either, stopping 25-of-26. All he needed was a bit of run support.

    Prior to puck drop, the Red Wings announced that defenseman Mike Green, who was hampered by a neck injury back in February, will go under the knife, ending his season.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck