BUFFALO — After a day in which amateur concussion experts weighed in on the pros and cons of Mikhail Grabovski resuming his NHL career, the crafty Belarusian was back in business Wednesday night.
In fact, the Leafs’ leading goal-scorer took the opening faceoff against the Buffalo Sabres, the night after scoring a pair against Boston and surviving a couple of head-crushing hits from Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara.
As for those suggesting the Leafs were negligent in letting Grabovski return, general manager Brian Burke took offence. Burke told the Toronto Sun that the team was confident Grabovski was fit to return.
“If he had demonstrated any symptoms, he would have been yanked and sent to the doctor,” Burke said just prior to puck drop at the HSBC Arena, no doubt weary of having to defend his training staff’s action.
“He was examined immediately after the hit and was symptom-free. He was allowed to return on that basis. He was examined post-game and again (Wednesday morning).”
The incident joined the hot-button issue of concussions in the NHL this season, largely because Grabovski looked dazed initially and wobbled in his first few strides back to the bench. He didn’t miss a shift, however, and came back to score the game-winner on a brilliant one-on-three rush.
While the medical community has legitimate questions regarding the NHL’s protocol surrounding concussions, the league is reviewing its policies and may have tougher criteria for in-game evaluation by next season.
That said, the Leafs feel they do everything by the book. Burke said his team favours caution when a player suffers a potential head injury, citing the Nik Kulemin incident in Raleigh, N.C. The Leafs forward was clocked by Tim Gleason of the Carolina Hurricanes in a scrap and did not return.
“He had symptoms, saw the doc there,” Burke said via email. “The symptoms resolved, but not quickly and he was yanked.”
Not that you would expect anything different from his teammates, but fellow Leafs admired Grabovski’s resilience.
“He’s taken some big hits this year and he always seems to get up and keeps going,” linemate Clarke MacArthur said. “Once he got to the bench and sat down, he was fine. It was just the first three or four steps he took was the worry had.
“(When you get hit like that) you lose your depth perception or whatever. Once you sit back down and take a breath, you get back into it.”