ATLANTA – Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec has a concussion and remained hospitalized Saturday undergoing additional tests to determine why he collapsed in the season opener.
While his team headed off to play a game at Tampa Bay, doctors tried to determine what caused Pavelec to suddenly fall back on the ice in a frightening incident just 2 1/2 minutes into the team’s Friday night win over the Washington Capitals.
“I talked to him. He sounded great,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said Saturday night after Atlanta’s 5-3 loss to the Lightning. “He had a great attitude. They’ve been doing a lot of tests and so far everything is normal. We’ll just hope for the best.”
The 23-year-old Pavelec had a headache from his concussion, which was caused by striking the back of his head on the ice. He had no idea what caused him to collapse.
“The last thing I remember was the lights going on after the (national) anthem,” Pavelec told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday from the hospital. “I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the ambulance and saw the doctor looking at me.”
With play at the opposite end, Pavelec suddenly fell backward with no one around. The team said he was unconscious when taken off on a stretcher, but he came to at the hospital and even asked how the Thrashers were doing. They beat the Capitals 4-2 with Chris Mason taking over in the net, making 29 saves.
“I was in shock,” said Thrashers forward Evander Kane, who scored twice in a game that resumed after a delay of about 20 minutes. “You never want to see anything like that happen, whether it’s the guys on your team or the other team.
“We wanted to win it for him.”
Pavelec told the newspaper he has no history of health problems and felt fine before the game.
“My heart looks good. My brain looks good,” he said. “Everything is normal, but we still have to find out what it is.”
Even though they signed Mason over the summer, the Thrashers believe Pavelec has the potential to develop into the sort of topflight goalie the team has lacked for its entire NHL history.
He signed a two-year deal in the off-season after going 14-18-7 with a 3.29 goals-against average and two shutouts in 42 games. It was his first full season in the NHL.
Pavelec also was a member of the Czech Republic’s team at this year’s Vancouver Olympics.
“It’s hard to even think about playing when something like that happens,” Mason said. “Your heart just sinks. It’s an awful feeling.”
Pavelec’s collapse also affected Washington’s Michal Neuvirth, another goalie from the Czech Republic.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Neuvirth said. “I hope he’s OK. It was hard to get focused after that.”
The incident rekindled memories of Detroit defenceman Jiri Fischer collapsing on the bench during a 2005 game. He had been diagnosed with a heart abnormality three years earlier, and medical personnel had to use an auto defibrillator to restart his heart.
Fischer retired after his collapse.
Pavelec didn’t require such dramatic medical treatment and there was no indication he was suffering from a similar ailment.
In the meantime, the Thrashers called up Drew MacIntyre from their AHL affiliate in Chicago to back up Mason, who figures to get the bulk of the playing time until Pavelec is cleared to return.
“We have to (call up another goalie) unless one of the players wants to suit up, and not many of them want to get in there and face their own shots,” Ramsay quipped.