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.

Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.