With a couple of notable exceptions for the Bruins (Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask), both they and the Devils are looking good headed into the playoffs. Boston has a fairly standard crop of injuries – a groin strain, a knee sprain, and a couple of concussions. New Jersey is mixing it up with a broken wrist and a blood clot (what?). Weird. Here’s what’s up with these two teams as they close out the last few games of the regular season.
Last regular season game: April 7th against the Sabres
Johnny Boychuk (D): Out since 4/4/12 – Left knee sprain
DON’T PANIC. Boychuk and Arron Asham ran into one another on Tuesday’s game against the Pens, and Boychuk had to be helped off the ice. He didn’t travel with the team to Ottawa for a pointless game against the Sens, probably because he was busy having the MRI that allowed Claude Julien to say that it’s just a minor sprain. Apparently his leg appeared to bend in a direction in which knees don’t normally bend, but I’m happy to take everyone’s word for that and go with what Julien said. Looks like Boychuk will be back for the playoffs.
Nathan Horton (RW): Out since 1/23/12 – Concussion (IR)
“Mild concussion” is the dumbest expression I’ve heard in a while. That’s like being a little bit pregnant. Either you’re concussed or you’re not. Granted there are grading systems for concussions, but the fact remains you can’t predict how someone will heal. Case in point – Nathan Horton was concussed by one of the Sestitos January 22nd. He tried skating in early February, but couldn’t shake his headaches and was shut down completely. He skated on his own this week, but don’t take that as an indicator of anything. He won’t be back before he’s completely symptom-free, and considering this is a guy who’s got a history of a fairly recent, fairly brutal concussion (during the playoffs last year), that could take a while. I’d be very surprised if we saw him back this year.
Tuukka Rask (G): Out since 3/5/12 – Groin/abdominal strain
Rask was originally slated to be out four to six weeks with a groin/abdominal strain. That would put him back in action just about exactly when the playoffs start. He was skating with Horton on Wednesday and he’s been working out, so that’s actually a real possibility. The only problem is that groins, like concussions, follow nobody’s rules and tend to be humungous buttheads. With luck this really was just a strain and not a tear or something equally nasty, and Rask will be able to contort into all the usual insane poses (much to Anton Khudobin’s chagrin, I’m sure).
Marc Savard (C): Out since January 2011 – Concussion
Savard’s original injury in March of 2010 (courtesy of the now-reformed Matt Cooke) may well be what kicked off the NHL’s rule changes as regard concussions. Whether those rules are consistently followed (no) is up for debate (but don’t bother debating because they’re not). Whether he should have returned during the 2010 playoffs or for the 2010-2011 season is also debatable. What’s not debatable is the more concussions you’ve had, the worse they get and the longer they take to heal. Witness the fact that over a year since his last concussion in January of 2011, Savard is still having symptoms. Professional athletes aren’t the only people whose careers can be ended by a brain injury, but they’re among the chosen few who either aren’t offered or choose not to take the time required to come back at 100% – that’s assuming 100% is even a possibility. It blows my mind that teams and players aren’t following the NHL concussion guidelines as they should be. I hope each of Savard’s days gets a little bit better, and I hope we don’t lose any more players like him before everyone smartens up and starts doing things right.
UPDATE: Adam McQuaid returned last night after missing several games with an eye/head injury. He went face-first into the boards thanks to a Jason Chimera check on March 29th and ended up with several stitches over his eye (which was also swollen shut for a few days). He passed concussion testing and once he could open his eye again his vision tested out fine. Claude Julien made some comments to the effect of how McQuaid didn’t “feel quite right” after the injury, and astute viewers (ie those with eyes) probably noticed he stayed down for a while after the hit. Concussion testing or not, that’s a pretty solid indicator that this was more than just a simple laceration. McQuaid didn’t return for the third period of last night’s game against Ottawa. Considering the Bruins could have easily rested him for the last few regular season games this is going to be ugly if the next announcement is that he has a concussion.
New Jersey Devils
Last regular season game: April 7th against the Senators
Jacob Josefson (C): Out since 4/3/12 – broken L wrist
Jacob Josefson can’t catch a break. HA HA HA. Sorry, that’s awful. Josefson has caught several breaks, unfortunately all of the bone variety. He broke his left wrist early this week – an unfortunate end to an unfortunate season. He already missed three months of the season after breaking his right clavicle (collarbone) in October. A brief aside about collarbone fractures – Josefson had his surgically repaired, which is definitely what I’d choose were I in his skates. Everyone knows that one kid in middle school that fell off of something and broke their collarbone, then spent the next eight weeks in a stinky brace that made them strut around with their shoulders back (in constant pain). A surgical repair involves screwing a plate to the broken ends and avoiding the stinky painful brace solution. Sign me up.
Josefson’s wrist fracture won’t need surgery, but he’ll be in a cast for four to six weeks. After that he’ll need rehab for the skinny arm he’ll be left with. I doubt we’ll see him back this season, but it’s not impossible.
Henrik Tallinder (D): Out since 1/17/12 – blood clot in left leg
Tallinder definitely wins the award for the weirdest injury headed into the playoffs. He’s been out since January with a blood clot in his left leg. Tallinder had leg stiffness and pain, and an MRI revealed the clot. That’s where the weirdness starts, as clots are usually found by ultrasound, and ultrasounds are usually done on people with leg pain and a crapload of risk factors for clots. Tallinder has no risk factors – he’s not pregnant, he’s not smoking while taking birth control pills, and he hasn’t been hospitalized for a long time. As an NHL player he does spend a lot of time on airplanes (prolonged immobility during long plane trips is a risk factor), but he’s a young healthy guy – not the usual victim. His treatment was supposed to last six to eight weeks, but he’s said that it’s not going as well as he’d like – he’s still having issues with stiffness. The treatment in question is blood thinning medication to keep the clot from getting any bigger, and to keep bits from breaking off and getting lodged in the lungs (that’s a pulmonary embolism, and that’s bad news). He likely also earned an extensive workup to determine if he has a thrombophilia (which is a fancy word for a condition that makes your blood clot easily).
The length of time someone is treated with blood thinners after a clot like this is somewhat unclear (translation: doctors can’t agree on what’s best). Someone who’s found to have a thrombophilia will probably be anti-coagulated (ie on the thinning drugs) for life. Someone who’s young, healthy, and at low risk for more clots could need anywhere from six weeks to three months of anti-coagulation. Despite this, just about everyone knows somebody who had a clot and has been told they need to be on blood thinners for life. Tallinder’s expectation of six to eight weeks seems to indicate that he wasn’t slated for long-term anticoagulation. It’s hard to say if he’ll be available for the playoffs. His eight weeks are up and he’s skating and working out, but he’s still on blood thinners. I’m thinking playing NHL hockey with thin blood is probably a stupendously bad idea. He’s said he’s hopeful that he’ll be back, but he doesn’t get the last word on that.
If all goes well both teams should be at almost full strength by the time the postseason gets going. Boston can likely expect to have two of their four injured players back, and although NJ may not get either of theirs back, they’ve got the depth to make up for it.