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 Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

    Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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    It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

    But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

    “There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

    Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

    Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

    Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

    In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

    Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


    After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

    Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

    Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

    Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

    While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

    Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

    McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

    Todd McLellan

    Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

    Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

    In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

    Some of the more choice quotes:

    “I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

    “When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

    It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

    Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

    They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

    Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

    “We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

    Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


    The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

    After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


    You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

    “It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

    “We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

    There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

    His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

    Not good.

    Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

    Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.