Nathan Horton

Nathan Horton is concussion symptom-free and ready to start the season

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After we all saw Nathan Horton’s run in the Stanley Cup finals come to an abrupt end thanks to a concussion due to a brutal blindside hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, you had to wonder just when Horton might be able to get back on the ice. After all, with how concussions are taken more seriously and the other players Boston has seen come under the gun thanks to them (Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron) it could’ve taken a while.

Turns out that Horton is feeling great and is finally symptom-free from the brutal blow and is set to open up training camp with the Bruins to prepare for next season. Horton told NHL.com’s Matt Kalman, “I’ll definitely be ready,” he said. “I’d be ready right now if we started.”

Having Horton ready to go helps eliminate any forward issues the Bruins could’ve had otherwise on their top lines. With the departure of Michael Ryder to Dallas in free agency, Mark Recchi’s retirement, and with Brad Marchand still unsigned as a restricted free agent the early going in training camp at right wing could’ve proved to be a bit empty. With the Bruins only adding Benoit Pouliot in the offseason, they’ll be relying a lot on their depth in the system to get things done. They’ll also be looking for Tyler Seguin to have a big second season in the league.

Horton did have one thing to say about the situation from Game 3 that saw Rome take him out of the finals. While Rome did send Horton a text message to apologize for what happened, much like how breaking up with your significant other via text isn’t kosher, neither is saying, “My bad” for nearly ruining a guy’s career as Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe found out.

As usual, Horton was all smiles. But when asked whether Rome had contacted him after the wallop, Horton was quick to dismiss the defenseman’s method of communication: text.

“If it was me, I wouldn’t have thrown a text message someone’s way,” Horton said. “I’d have a little bit more respect to actually make a phone call.”

We’ve no doubts that a phone call in such a situation is more than awkward, but given how things shook out and the extreme high profile of the play, Horton’s right. We’ll remember that next time we find ourselves in a similar situation. With how that whole thing broke down, it probably wouldn’t have hurt Rome to actually call him but as things go in the playoffs when battle lines are drawn, direct apologies don’t always (or ever) happen. Kris Draper might still be waiting for an apology from Claude Lemieux.

That’s not a good excuse for Rome, it’s just how things happen. Considering how guys will go gunning for a prone player, it shouldn’t be too shocking that the lack of common courtesy or tact extends to how it goes off the ice as well. Of course, Rome paid for his mistake in that he was suspended for the rest of the finals and his hit emboldened the Bruins to bring them together to beat Vancouver in seven games to win it all. You might not believe in karmic retribution but that’s about as close as it gets.

All that aside, it’s great to see Horton doing well especially after all the concussion news around the league of late has been nothing but bad or confusing. Here’s to hoping Horton can avoid further problems in the future.

‘I’ve got to be more aware’ on the ice, says Ekblad after recent injury

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Aaron Ekblad #5  of the Florida Panthers leaves the ice following warmups prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 17, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As per multiple reports, Aaron Ekblad practiced with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday.

Good news. That marks another step in the progress he’s made from a neck injury — initially reported to be a concussion — suffered on a hit from Leo Komarov that ultimately ended the defenseman’s experience for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.

On Thursday, Ekblad told reporters the injury was actually whiplash.

The 20-year-old Ekblad has had a history of concussions, including one from a Hockey Canada camp in August, 2014 — almost two full months after the Panthers selected him first overall.

He was injured again in January of last season when Matt Hendricks caught him with a dangerous hit against the end boards, resulting in a suspension for Hendricks.

Despite supplemental discipline from the league on that specific incident involving Hendricks, Ekblad, a valuable part of a young Panthers team that has increased expectations surrounding it, put the onus on himself to be more aware on the ice.

“When I think about it in the Edmonton game last year, there were a couple of big hits on their guys. I should have expected to someone was going to come after me,” Ekblad told NHL.com.

“Obviously you don’t think that. You think there’s a little bit more respect among players out there. I turned, I saw him. I didn’t think he was going to drive my head into the glass. The Komarov hit there, he got me on the shoulder, not much on the head or anything like that. It was more of the whiplash effect. Again, I’ve got to be more aware. You train your body, you train your brain to do that kind of thing. I do a lot of eye exercises and stuff like that. We’re working on that right now and just trying to be a better hockey player that way.”

The Panthers have a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Ekblad is not in the lineup.

Stars sign WHL d-man Vala to entry-level deal

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The Dallas Stars have added another defenseman to their group of prospects.

On Thursday, the club signed 18-year-old Czech blue liner Ondrej Vala to a three-year entry-level contract. Vala is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He had four goals and 21 points in 72 games last season — his first with the Blazers.

Having represented the Czech Republic at U-17 and U-18 international events and played for the Stars prospects team at the Traverse City Tournament, Vala is also listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 209 pounds.

He certainly brings size on the blue line, which is a quality the Stars appear to value in him.

“Ondrej has shown a combination of size and physicality along with the ability to play a defensively responsible game at the junior hockey level,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement.

Related:

Another — yes, another — blow for Dallas as Janmark spotted on crutches

Capitals send first-round pick Johansen back to junior

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Lucas Johansen poses for a portrait after being selected 28th overall by the Washington Capitals in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals have sent prospect defenseman Lucas Johansen, selected 28th overall in this year’s NHL Draft, back to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

From the Kelowna Capital News:

The Kelowna Rockets have yet to play a regular season game with a full lineup.

That will change this weekend in Prince George when defenceman Lucas Johansen and forward Calvin Thurkauf rejoin their WHL club for a two-game set against the Cougars.

Johansen, a first-round NHL draft pick this summer, is back from the camp of the Washington Capitals, while Thurkauf returns from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Capitals confirmed the news via Twitter.

Johansen, the younger brother of NHL center Ryan Johansen, appeared in Monday’s exhibition game for the Capitals, apparently leaving a positive impression on the coaching staff.

Still, Johansen doesn’t turn 19 years old until the middle of November. He also has some growing left to do at six-foot-one-inch tall and just 174 pounds, so sending him back to junior is the logical step.

“For a first game, to have that kind of poise playing defense, you don’t see it very often,” Capitals’ associate coach Todd Reirden told the Washington Post.

“So, it’s fun to watch, how he goes about the game. Certainly, I think it’s helped growing up in the family that he has and being around some of the players he’s practiced with. I think he has some special tools, in terms of his ability to slow down the play and see some things that other players don’t. He’s looking like an outstanding draft pick for us and a real great prospect moving forward.”

Shaw suspended three preseason games for boarding Connor Hobbs

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 02:  Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks speaks during Media Day for the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 2, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The National Hockey League has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw for three preseason games for boarding defenseman Connor Hobbs of the Washington Capitals in an exhibition game Tuesday.

The Habs have five more exhibition games remaining before the regular season begins Oct. 13.

Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.

From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.

“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”

In a bid to land a gritty forward to their lineup, the Habs acquired Shaw from the Blackhawks, who had been dealing with a cap crunch, during the NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year contract extension with Montreal.