Blues forward Jori Lehtera, who’s missed nearly a month with a concussion, declared himself healthy and able to return to the lineup ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Jets.
But when will he draw back in?
Lehtera has missed 12 games in a row and, during that spell, St. Louis has played extremely well, going 9-1-2 to move into third spot in the Central Division. That includes Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Preds — the team chasing St. Louis in the Central — and it’s reasonable to suggest head coach Mike Yeo won’t tinker much with a winning lineup.
Lehtera had a difficult year prior to getting hurt, scoring just six goals and 19 points through 61 games. Concussion issues derailed the start of his campaign and, in December, former head coach Ken Hitchcock made the 29-year-old a healthy scratch, saying the Blues needed more from him.
With Lehtera, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri out, Yeo has been forced to integrate some of the organization’s younger forwards into the NHL mix, and the kids have responded. Ivan Barbashev has played well, as has Zach Sanford, one of the assets acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Washington trade.
Sidney Crosby showed a moment of brilliance and, in contrast, a moment of bitterness during Tuesday’s Penguins – Sabres game, but it wasn’t the only nasty moment.
Crosby’s young linemate Jake Guentzel was clearly struggling after a hit by Buffalo blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen during the first period. Ristolainen received a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference on that play.
You can see that hard hit in the video above.
The Penguins have already been battling a ridiculous slew of injuries, and it sure seemed like Guentzel was dazed. Not good.
This game means a ton more to Pittsburgh than it does to Buffalo, yet the physical play and decent array of scoring chances makes it seem like both teams are quite engaged.
Update: Bad news for the Penguins, as it appears that Guentzel suffered a concussion.
The Florida Panthers, losers of seven of the past eight games, are facing what is almost certainly a must-win game on Monday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They will have to do it without the services of start defenseman Aaron Ekblad and center Denis Malgin due to concussions that they suffered on Saturday night in their loss to a depleted Tampa Bay Lightning team.
Coach Tom Rowe announced on Monday (via the Miami Herald) that both players are expected to be sidelined for at least 7-10 days.
Because of the injuries the Panthers had to call up MacKenzie Weegar from the AHL, while Jakub Kindl will draw into the lineup to take Ekblad’s spot.
The 20-year-old Ekblad had appeared in every game for the Panthers this season and recorded 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) before the injury.
The hit that caused the concussion infuriated Rowe, calling it a “real cheap shot from behind” after the game. Gabriel Dumont, the player that delivered the hit, will not face any discipline from the NHL’s department of player safety.
Losing Ekblad at this point is a pretty massive blow to the Panthers’ already fading playoff chances. They are in the middle of a stretch that has seen them collect just three out of a possible 18 points in the standings to fall seven points back of Toronto in the Wild Card race.
A loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday would be pretty much the final blow to their playoff chances.
The concern for Ekblad at this point is this isn’t the first head/neck-related injury he has had over recently. He missed time last season due to another concussion, and was then sent home from the World Cup of Hockey with what was later called “whiplash.”
There was a positive development at Boston Bruins practice Sunday.
Ryan Spooner, previously listed as out indefinitely with a concussion, was back on the ice skating with his teammates ahead of Monday’s game with the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
The Bruins are at the beginning of a four-game road trip that includes three games in four nights with stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Spooner will not play Monday, however he left the door open to the possibility of the 25-year-old center returning to the lineup two days later in Calgary.
It’s likely that when that happens, Spooner will return to his role in the middle of Boston’s third line.
“When he’s healthy, he won’t lose his spot because of injury — unless something really changes quickly here,” said Cassidy. “But that’s the plan.”
The losses continue to pile up for the Florida Panthers. So, too, do the injuries.
Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe confirmed post-game that the club’s cornerstone defenseman Aaron Ekblad suffered a concussion on a hit in the second period from Gabrel Dumont. Ekblad left the game and didn’t return. Per the Sun Sentinel, the club also lost forward Denis Malgin to a concussion.
There was no call on the Dumont hit on Ekblad, whose head was slammed into the glass, causing him to fall back to the ice.
However, Rowe had some stern words about the incident.
“I thought the hit on Ekblad was dangerous. We’ll leave it up to the league to review it and see what they think,” he said, later calling the hit “a real cheap shot from behind.”
Ekblad is only 21 years old, but already has a concerning history when it comes to head injuries. During the World Cup prior to this season, he suffered what was first described as a mild concussion before that was changed to a neck injury.
He also went through concussion protocol last year after a hit from Matt Hendricks.
Just more bad news for the Panthers, who surged to a two-goal lead in the first period versus Tampa Bay, but lost 3-2. Ondrej Palat scored the winner with 2:23 remaining in regulation.
The Panthers now have only two wins in their last 10 games.
According to Sports Club Stats, the Panthers now have a 0.6 per cent chance of making the playoffs.