Jamie Langenbrunner, Ales Hemsky

Ales Hemsky knocked out of game with concussion, did Oilers staff make a big mistake?

Injuries seem to be piling up everywhere and even lowly Edmonton isn’t immune. After defenseman Ryan Whitney’s season was essentially put to an end thanks to ankle surgery, tonight Ales Hemsky joined him on the list of skating wounded. During tonight’s game with the Wild, Hemsky left the game early with a concussion.

If Hemsky’s injury keeps him out for an extended period of time, he’d likely miss the All-Star Game next week in Raleigh. If you’re looking for potential replacements for him, the list is plentiful. Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere and Minnesota’s Martin Havlat are near the top of the list to get a call from the NHL and get dropped into the selection pool for the game.

While that’s all good and frivolous talk though, we’re discovering that Hemsky’s injury situation is worth taking a very close look at.

As we’ve talked about for the better part of a year now, the science that goes into discovering, diagnosing, and treating concussions is still inexact. The question, as we’ve discovered in how things are going in Sidney Crosby’s dealings with a concussion, is when did things first happen for Hemsky.

As we’re finding out, Hemsky may have originally had the blow that sent him reeling some time ago. Jim Matheson from the Edmonton Journal finds out that Hemsky may have been playing for a while with a concussion.

It doesn’t appear to be any particular hit that KO’d him, more an accumulation of blows over the last half-dozen games.

“He took a puck in the head in Vancouver, an elbow to the head and a stick to the cheek in games on the road trip we just finished and he was a little out of sorts tonight, so we pulled him,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

“He’s had some symptoms before this game and the doctor looked at him and I don’t know what conclusion they’ve drawn.”

As we’ve seen in the discussions about Crosby and his concussion and how much heat the Penguins coaches and training staff have taken over even the possibility they allowed Crosby to play with a concussion against Tampa Bay, it’s baffling to think that the Oilers would seemingly ignore Hemsky’s health in favor of making sure he gets back out on the ice for what’s a bad hockey team.

The Oilers are more than aware of the injury problems Hemsky has faced through his career and the fact that they seemingly looked the other way on what amounts to a brain injury is incredible. After all, coach Renney even says that the doctors looked at him and he has no idea what they thought of Hemsky’s condition. Did he not know or did he just ignore what they said and kept putting him out there anyhow? After all, this is over the course of about six or so games.

It’s unreal to think that the Oilers or any medical staff would play this loose with something like a concussion to a player with a bad injury history, but then again we’re only more privy to these things in the modern age. With modern coverage we’ve seen modern medicine improve a bit, but still the only way to properly treat a concussion as far as we know now is with rest and no physical exertion at all.

Instead, Hemsky has played in at least six games. The fact that tonight was the first night where his body finally had enough and forced him out is remarkable in itself and the Oilers physicians have to be thankful that Hemsky didn’t take a violent hit in the meantime that could’ve turned this into a disaster. The Oilers coaches and medical staff are going to have some explaining to do over this as concussions once again move to the forefront of discussion.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).