Jordan Staal already missed 32 games earlier this season thanks to concussions, and he’s incredibly lucky to not have suffered another on Thursday night.
The Carolina Hurricanes forward was flattened by a hit to the head from Tampa Bay Lightning forward Yanni Gourde during the first period.
Gourde, coming across the ice, drove his shoulder through the face of Staal, who was leaning forward, not looking in Gourde’s direction given where the puck was, and beginning to fall after getting tripped up by Ryan Callahan.
Regardless of how you look at the hit, and any events leading up to it, it was completely avoidable.
While Gourde’s intention probably wasn’t to drill Staal, the video is plenty damning for the Lightning’s young gun.
To the surprise of no one, Gourde was given a match penalty on the play for an illegal check to the head. Staal, meanwhile, left the game for the rest of the first period but was back on the bench to start the second, which is fantastic news.
Coming back from his last concussion was hell, as Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer chronicled in a great story about Staals’ road to recovery last month, just days before he returned to lineup.