TORONTO – Still facing visions of the stomach-turning blindside hit on teammate Marc Savard, the Boston Bruins were hopeful Monday that their star centre will make a speedy recovery and that the NHL will take action on head shots.
Savard was cleared to fly to Boston from Pittsburgh and met with club doctor Peter Asnis and a concussion specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital upon his arrival.
The Bruins star suffered a grade two concussion during Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Penguins, when Matt Cooke caught an unsuspecting Savard with a shoulder to the head.
A team spokesman said Savard will remain under the care of Bruins medical staff until further notice, with no timetable set for his return.
The rest of the team, meanwhile, was in Toronto ahead of Tuesday’s contest with the Maple Leafs and only a small handful of them turned up for an optional practice.
The incident remained a hot topic of conversation, with defenceman Johnny Boychuk, forward Vladimir Sobotka and goaltender Tuukka Rask all in favour of some sort of action by the NHL. The league’s GMs were holding their annual meetings in Florida where they were discussing head shots.
“It should have been cracked down on a little while ago, I think, because you never want to see anybody hurt from anything like that,” said Boychuk. “Everybody’s got their guy on their team who’s going to police for your players.
“But there should be something done (by the NHL) about certain situations like that.”
Boychuk exchanged text messages with Savard on Sunday night to make sure he was OK and said “he seems to be fine.”
“He’s a well-liked guy in our room and you want to make sure he’s OK,” Boychuk added. “It’s a scary scene to have a guy go down like that.”
Savard was on the ice for several minutes, being attended to by a Penguins team doctor, before being carried off. No penalty was called on the play.
“I think it should be an automatic penalty and I’m surprised the refs didn’t call it,” said Sobotka. “It should be eliminated. Any part of the head it should be called and I think (Sunday) night, it was a penalty.”
Rask was more diplomatic, refusing to characterize Cooke’s hit other than to twice say, “it didn’t look good.”
He did, however, point out that similar hits wouldn’t be tolerated in his native Finland.
“It’s pretty strict there,” he said.
Boychuk feels contact with the head can be avoided on blindside hits, arguing that “if you’re giving the hit, you can put body on body.”
The hit from Cooke on Savard, and similar ones earlier this season that have helped fuel the debate on headshots, don’t need to happen.
“It’s just common courtesy when you see a guy vulnerable like that,” said Boychuk. “Personally, myself, I probably wouldn’t try to do anything to hurt anybody like that. I don’t really like it, but that’s sometimes part of the game I guess. It’s sad to see.”
Other players across the league agree.
“As a player, you have to respect the players you’re playing against,” said Edmonton Oilers defenceman Jason Strudwick. “Also, the teams, because you want to protect your assets and make sure players aren’t out for extended periods of time.
“It’s everybody. It’s not on one group or one person. I think as a whole league, we have to all come together and get some kind of resolution to this.”
Cooke denied he was head-hunting after the game, saying: “It felt like shoulder on shoulder to me. I don’t know. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt. I said sorry to him the best I could.”
The Bruins host Cooke and the Penguins on March 18.
The concussion is the latest injury in what’s been a difficult year for Savard, who was earlier sidelined by a broken foot and a partial MCL tear.
Notes: The Bruins recalled defenceman Jeff Penner from Providence on an emergency basis and assigned goalie Dany Sabourin to the American Hockey League club.