In the fifth and deciding game of the New York Rangers first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mats Zuccarello took a Ryan McDonagh slapshot to the head and immediately left the ice. The injury held Zuccarello out of the remainder of the post-season, and Monday he revealed why: he suffered a brain contusion.
If the injury doesn’t sound frightening enough – a brain contusion is a bruising of the brain tissue and considered more severe than a concussion – Zuccarello added that following the injury he lost the ability to speak for a few days and was unable to move one of his arms. The shot also fractured his skull and left him hospitalized for three days.
“I don’t know what you guys know, but there was a small fracture in my head. I lost my talking and some feeling in my arm and stuff. I was in the hospital for three days,” Zuccarello said, according to the New York Daily News. “I couldn’t talk for a while. I had a contusion, some blood in my brain. That affects a lot. I went to speech therapy. I’m getting much better. I couldn’t say a word for four days… I feel much better and I’m getting better and better.”
Thankfully, doctors have told Zuccarello that he is expected to make a full recovery.
With news of the severity of Zuccarello’s injury, it seems nothing short of incredible that he was able to skate following the brain contusion. During the Eastern Conference final, Zuccarello wasn’t taking part in team practices, but he was taking to the ice near the end of practices. His status throughout the third round remained unchanged – he was said to be out indefinitely – and Zuccarello said Monday that, were the Rangers to make the Stanley Cup final, there is a small chance he could have played, but it appears that would have been unlikely.
“There was a small chance I might play more this year. But probably not. There’s no reason to speculate now,” he added. “In the beginning I couldn’t talk. It was scary. But the doctors were really good and made sure I knew I’d be healthy. I was just happy to recover quickly.”
Throughout the regular season, Zuccarello was outstanding for the Rangers, posting 15 goals and 49 points in 78 games and making a serious impact as a depth forward for the club. In the four post-season games before the injury, Zuccarello had notched two assists, but skated less than five minutes in Game 5 before taking the McDonagh shot to the head.
Last post-season, Zuccarello posted five goals and 13 points for the Rangers in 25 games, while averaging almost 18 minutes of ice time per contest.
There’s no information or timeline on when exactly Zuccarello will make a full recovery, but that he’ll be able to do so is fantastic news. Hopefully, once healthy, he’ll be back in the lineup for the Rangers.