VANCOUVER – Willie Mitchell could relate to Daniel Sedin’s plight Wednesday.
The Kings defenceman, sidelined by a concussion two seasons ago, empathized with his former teammate after Sedin missed Vancouver’s morning skate, ruling him out for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter-final with Los Angeles.
“It’s a stressful situation, a brain injury,” Mitchell said. “It’s an unfortunate situation for him, for sure.”
Sedin has been out with a concussion since taking an elbow to the head from Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith last month.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault refused to comment on a Swedish media report that quoted Sedin’s father saying the winger experienced a headache after skating earlier in the week.
Sedin practised with the team Monday for the first time since he was injured. While he didn’t speak to the media, his teammate and twin brother Henrik said he was “100 per cent.”
Henrik Sedin declined to say Wednesday whether his brother had suffered a setback after Monday’s practice.
Daniel Sedin led the Canucks in goals during the regular season with 30 while adding 37 assists. He missed nine games, eight of which the Canucks won.
Mason Raymond is expected to take Daniel Sedin’s spot on the first line alongside Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows in Game 1.
The Canucks, who finished first overall in the NHL for the second straight season, are looking to return to the Stanley Cup final after losing in seven games to Boston in 2011.
Mitchell was injured in January 2010 while playing for the Canucks on a check from behind by Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. He missed the rest of the regular season and playoffs and his future was in doubt before he was deemed healthy in the summer and signed with the Kings as an unrestricted free agent.
The NHL has cracked down on head shots in the past two seasons, and Mitchell believes the tougher stance and increased knowledge of concussions, will improve players’ health—during and after their careers.
“I’m happy that it’s evolving,” said Mitchell of the NHL’s attitude on concussions. “I really do believe that our generation of players is the evolution of, hopefully, minimizing concussions in the game. Unfortunately, it’s our health that’s at risk while it’s happening. But if you look, our generation can be a big part—whether it’s myself speaking out (Sidney Crosby) speaking out, or other players speaking out—about (reducing) them.”
Mitchell said Crosby’s two concussions, which caused the Pittsburgh captain to miss almost a year of action, forced the league to take action. NHL brass also had to look at the concussion issue at a much higher level because of the scrutiny that Crosby’s health woes brought.
“Unfortunately, it happened to him,” said Mitchell. “I don’t wish that on anyone. But fortunately for the rest of his peers in the game, it did happen to him, because now they’ve looked at it a little bit more and acted on it.”
An evolution, he added, is also occurring in the league office with chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan doing a better job of handing out punishment. A move to smaller shoulder pads next season will also reduce risk in shoulder-to-head hits.
Mitchell said it will take time to end the concussion problem. However, the league must still ensure that players can still play the game at high intensity and at a high level.
“We don’t want to change that,” said Mitchell. “We love that. That’s why we play. But do it in a safe environment.”