Matthew Lombardi, Dany Sabourin

Brian Burke says Matthew Lombardi is concussion symptom-free

By almost every account, the Toronto Maple Leafs won their trade with the Nashville Predators simply by unloading Brett Lebda in exchange for useful offensive defenseman Cody Franson. That being said, Matthew Lombardi’s health will determine if Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke hit a single or a home run.

The speedy and versatile center is trying to fight back from concussion problems that sidelined him from all but two games last season. While Lombardi still has a long way to go – Burke admits that he probably won’t be ready for the first day of training camp – The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran reports that Lombardi has been declared symptom-free.

Again, it’s important to temper some of the excitement with realistic expectations. Lombardi isn’t skating yet – he’s just been cleared for full activity on an exercise bike. Going from the bike to skating alone to being subjected to full-contact regular season hockey requires quite a few steps.

Still, it’s heartening to hear that he’s at least making progress.

“He is cleared for full activity on the bike,” Burke said in a phone interview. “The last report I got he was doing 20-plus minutes without symptoms. He has been declared symptom-free and now it’s about getting the workload back up.”

(snip)

With concussions, teams know there are no guarantees. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had advanced further than Lombardi — skating at about 90 per cent — but recently is reported to have suffered a setback. Lombardi is not skating.

“I don’t believe he will be there for the first day of training camp,” said Burke. “He may, but it’s not clear he will. But we’re very pleased with his progress.”

In other Maple Leafs news, Burke spoke a bit about Luke Schenn’s prolonged contract negotiations. McGran reports that the restricted free agent’s representative Don Meehan said that he expects to meet with the Leafs later this week while Burke is optimistic about a deal getting done.

Burke said fans shouldn’t be concerned that Schenn hasn’t yet inked a deal.

“We’ve had some discussions,” said Burke. “We remain optimistic that we’ll sign him before camp.”

A training camp deadline is a wise one to set for Schenn and other noteworthy RFAs, such as Drew Doughty. The Maple Leafs have reasons to be optimistic going into training camp in a September, but getting Schenn under contract and Lombardi closer to 100 percent health would make the future that much brighter.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.