Issue coming to a head

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:35 PM ET

The nauseating sight of a concussed Marc Savard being carried off the ice on a stretcher Sunday will add even more controversy to the head shot debate when NHL general managers begin their annual three-day meetings in Florida on Monday.

With head shots already at the top of the GMs’ agenda, incidents involving the Boston Bruins’ Savard and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ John Mitchell this past weekend certainly pours fuel on this heated issue.

Having just released the puck, Savard was nailed in the head by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Matt Cooke late in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory.

“I knew he had just taken a shot. I was just finishing my check,” Cooke told reporters afterward, claiming he used his shoulder.

Although no penalty was called on the play, Bruins coach Claude Julien felt Cooke threw an elbow and called for a suspension for “a classic blindside hit to the head.”

Savard’s teammate Patrice Bergeron, whose career was almost ended by a hit-from-behind, said he was “sick to my stomach to see that.”

There already are calls for Cooke’s suspension, especially since he received a two game banishment earlier this season after throwing a flying elbow on Artem Anisimov.

Savard remained behind in Pittsburgh with a team trainer Sunday night while the team flew to Toronto for Tuesday’s game with the Leafs.

In Mitchell’s case, his head was down when he was crunched in the head by the shoulder of Ottawa’s Chris Neil Saturday. Mitchell left the game, but was back in the Leafs lineup for Sunday night’s contest in Philadelphia.

“Head shots definitely should be addressed,” Mitchell told the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley on Sunday.

“I put myself in a vulnerable position but (Neil) had plenty of my body to hit rather than hit me in the head. Obviously he’s a physical guy who wants to hit people but do it in a clean fashion. I think he has been known to hit guys in the head a little bit.

“(Just) try and hit the body a little more. Or shoulder to shoulder. It’s a lot better than to somebody’s face.”


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