DULUTH, Ga. – Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec returned to the ice Tuesday with no memory of his frightening collapse barely two minutes into the Thrashers’ season opener 11 days ago.
“I’m no doctor, but they say I just fainted,” Pavelec said. “They said there are so many reasons it could have happened, but they couldn’t find it.”
There is no timetable for Pavelec to return to the Thrashers’ lineup.
The 23-year-old lost consciousness and suffered a concussion on Oct. 8 when he fell and hit is head on the ice in the scary incident. He spent two nights in an Atlanta hospital for observation before being released. He later returned for another round of tests that were negative.
“It was the first time that it happened and hopefully it will never happen again,” Pavelec said. “It could have been worse if I was driving or something.”
The Czech Republic native participated fully in the first 30 minutes of the hour-long practice on Tuesday, facing shots from teammates without issue. He needs to get back in game shape before being ready to come off the injured list.
“It was good to see him out there,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsey said. “We were just trying to get him some work and a sweat. … Let him find out where he is (in his recovery). … I’m sure it felt good to get his equipment on again and face some shots.”
“I was excited to get back and see how it would go,” Pavelec said. “Everything was pretty good. … I felt good. It will take a while to get back in game shape. I can’t say when I’ll be back. I’ll have to take my time.”
In the opening game against Washington, Pavelec lay motionless on the ice for more than 10 minutes before being removed on a stretcher while still unconscious. He came to in the ambulance en route to the hospital.
“The last thing I remember in the national anthem until I woke up in the ambulance,” Pavelec said.
Pavelec suffered what was termed a neurocardiogenic syncope episode. Tests revealed no other problems, according to the goalie and the Thrashers.
“They did all testing for my brain and my heart,” Pavelec said. “They said I just fainted. It’s nothing serious and … they said I’m ready to go.”
Pavelec suffered the concussion when the back on his head hit the ice. He said that it was the fourth that he’s suffered. The first two were playing soccer as a youngster. The third was the result of an on-ice fight while playing for the Czech Republic against Russian in the under-17 world championships.
“I had headaches for three or four days, but now they are all gone,” Pavelec said of the carryover from his latest concussion.
Scheduled to share time in goal with veteran Chris Mason this season, Pavelec won the right to start the opening game with a strong pre-season. He played in 42 games last season as a rookie, going 14-18-7 with a 3.29 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
Pavelec was a second-round draft choice of the Thrashers in 2005. He was a backup goaltender for the Czech Republic in the 2010 Olympic Games at Vancouver and the 2010 World Championships.
Mason relieved Pavelec in the opening game against Washington and has started the four games since. The Thrashers (3-2-0) play Buffalo at home on Wednesday night.
“They didn’t say when I’m going to be back,” Pavelec said. “Hopefully as soon as possible.”