Florida Panthers v Calgary Flames
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Panthers captain Mitchell (concussion) ‘has to decide whether he can play’


Heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2012, there’s no denying Florida would love to have its captain in the mix.

But there’s no denying his return is loaded with issues.

Willie Mitchell, who’s again dealing with concussion problems that have occurred throughout his lengthy career, hasn’t played since mid-January — and on Thursday, GM Dale Tallon said Mitchell’s return is up in the air.

“Willie has to decide whether he can play or not,” Talon said, per the Miami Herald. “We want to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, we want to make sure there is no permanent damage.”

Mitchell, who turns 39 in April, has been a fairly key cog for Florida since signing on two years ago. He played 66 games last season while averaging nearly 22 minutes a night, and appeared in 46 this year — with his ice time dipping to under 20 minutes per — before being sidelined.

Among other things, he was instrumental in helping prized d-man Aaron Ekblad adjust to NHL life. Ekblad lived with Mitchell during his rookie campaign, which culminated with Ekblad capturing last year’s Calder Trophy.

With Mitchell out of the lineup, Florida has a lack of experience on the back end — he’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion with nearly 90 postseason games to his credit.

In Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers, the six defensemen that dressed — Ekblad, Steve Kampfer, Alex Petrovic, Dmitry Kulikov, Jakub Kindl and Brian Campbell — have a grand total of 123 playoff games.

Campbell accounts for most of that, with 97. Another injured defenseman, Erik Gudbranson, has seven.

So it’s obvious the Panthers would love to have Mitchell back. But they’re not willing to risk further damage in order to do so.

“This is up to Willie. We want to do what is best for him. That’s the bottom line,” Tallon said. “The doctors have said they’re concerned with his long-term health.”

Jets’ Perreault diagnosed with concussion after crash into boards

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Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault has been diagnosed with a concussion following a nasty collision into the boards during Sunday’s loss to Anaheim, per Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

Perreault was hurt midway through the second period, when he lost his balance and slid back-first into the side boards. The 28-year-old remained on the ice for a lengthy period of time before exiting.

He didn’t return to the contest.

It remains to be seen if Perreault will return to action this season. The Jets have nothing to play for — at least standings-wise — and only have 10 games remaining.

This is a tough development for Perreault, however. He was on pace to set a career-best in points (was 43, has 41 this year) and already posted a career high in games played, with 71.


Pierre-Marc Bouchard retires, citing concussion risk

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason and Fedor Tyutin of Russia, right, watches the puck enter the net on a tie-breaking goal to win the game by Minnesota Wild's Pierre-Marc Bouchard, left, in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Saint Paul, Minn. The Wild won 3-2. It was Bouchard's 100th career goal. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Former NHLer Pierre-Marc Bouchard has retired due to the long-term risk of sustaining another concussion.

Bouchard has spent the past two seasons playing for Swiss team EV Zug. The 31-year-old forward spent most of his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild, who drafted him eighth overall in 2002.

Bouchard’s concussion issues date back to the tail end of the 2008-09 season. In 2009-10, he missed all but the Wild’s season-opener, then didn’t return until December of the 2010-11 campaign. A concussion caused him to miss half of 2011-12 as well.

After a short stint with the Islanders, he headed for Europe in 2014.

Bouchard was Zug’s leading scorer this season, piling up 67 points in 49 games. He finished his NHL career with 356 points in 593 games.

Dealing with first concussion has been ‘just weird’ for Leafs’ Bozak

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Concussion’s have arguably become the trickiest injury to deal with in sports, and Leafs forward Tyler Bozak is finding that out the hard way.

The 29-year-old suffered the first concussion of his career after he was hit by Senators forward Mika Zibanejad on Feb. 6 (top). Bozak’s been out ever since.

“It’s just weird,” Bozak said, per Sportsnet. “You’re not really hurt. Like when you’ve hurt your arm or your leg or something you know what you can and can’t do. But when you have (a concussion) it’s kind of hard. When I started riding the bike I’d get headaches right after.

“And then some mornings I’d wake up with a headache and some mornings I wouldn’t. I guess every day is a new thing.”

Bozak was cleared for contact on Tuesday, but not before he failed his two previous baseline tests. He finally returned to practice on Wednesday. The Leafs aren’t sure when he’ll be available to play in a game.

When seeking advice on how to deal with his injury, Bozak turned to former teammate Clarke MacArthur. The Sens forward suffered two concussions in a short period of time earlier this season and he hasn’t played since. His experience has proven to be valuable for Bozak.

“He just said (to) try and stay positive and try and stay patient,” Bozak said of his talks with MacArthur. “He had a couple (concussions) pretty much back-to-back and it’s been a tough road for him. It’s obviously really frustrating because you want to be out there – any time you’re not out practising with the guys and going out on the road, it’s tough – but it’s one of those things that it’s a lot more important to be patient and make sure everything’s all right.”

After missing 66 games, MacArthur (concussion) wants to play Sens’ final four

Clarke MacArthur
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Nobody would blame Clarke MacArthur for shutting it down, after spending most of this season plagued with concussion problems.

MacArthur isn’t having it, though.

“I would love to just get a few games in, to know going into the summer that things are going to be fine for next year,” he said, per the Ottawa Citizen. “You never know, I guess. There’s no certainty to when you’re going to get hit or what’s going to happen, but for me, mentally, it would be nice to play some games.”

MacArthur has been out of action since Oct. 4 after suffering a concussion against Columbus. It’s believed to be a continuation of the head injury he suffered last season — one that cost him 18 games — and another he suffered during the preseason.

According to the Citizen, the 30-year-old was set to return two weeks ago, but failed a baseline test on Feb. 29. He’s since been meeting regularly with doctors in the hope of getting cleared for the Sens’ final four games of the season — Apr. 2 versus Philly, Apr. 5 versus Pittsburgh, Apr. 7 versus Florida and the season finale on Apr. 9 against Boston.

The Sens are no doubt hopeful MacArthur can get back into the mix, and be as productive as last season (when he had 36 points in just 62 games played).

He’s in the first of a five-year, $23.25 million contract, one that carries through the 2020 campaign.