Two hours before game time at HSBC Arena, Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski was bent over a table outside the team's dressing room, preparing his sticks for tonight's contest against the Buffalo Sabres.
Ten feet away, his teammates were chatting with the media and still marvelling over what Grabovski had accomplished the night before in a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.
Grabovski ended up scoring the winning goal on a spectacular play with 61 seconds left, but the Leafs drew some criticism for allowing him to return to the ice after he struggled to get off the ice after two big hits by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Leafs GM Brian Burke said this morning that Grabovski did not suffer a concussion, something that was determined by the team's training staff on the bench during the game.
The Leafs did not make Grabovski, the coaching staff or head trainer Andy Playter available to the media before tonight's game, which left other players to weigh in on the issue.
"What a great job by him," said linemate Clarke MacArthur, who helped Grabovski off the ice after he wobbled and fell after the second hit from Chara. "You know he goes into the tough areas every game and he's taken some big hits this year and he always seems to get up and keep going.
"He got shaken up on the one hit, obviously Chara he's a big guy, you're feeling it when he's hitting you, and for him to come back and score like that, just shows what kind of a player he is."
Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek, the team's NHL Players' Association representative, echoed those comments, but also addressed the larger issue of players coming back from blows to the head.
"It's on everyone's mind," Komisarek said of the concussion issue. "It's up to the trainers. I mean, if you ask Grabo, I don't know if he doesn't understand in English if you ask if he's okay or not, but if you tell him he's got a concussion, he's going to want to go out there. You're going to have to pull a guy like that off the ice.
"And that's said with a lot of athletes. You have a lot of pride and you want to get out there and you want to be battling. You don't like being pulled off the ice; you want to be playing. I think usually it's up to the trainers, and there's no guidelines right now like the NFL where they pull the guy to the side.
"Whether it was a concussion or getting your bell rung - getting your bell run seems to happen a lot - but I don't know."
Komisarek was then asked if he felt the NHL's guidelines should be changed.
"It's tough to say," he said. "I haven't really thought much about that. We're in the middle of a playoff race. I'm happy about the two points and happy that Grabo was healthy enough to get back out there after the pounding. I'm sure it's going to be discussed. The PA's going to be talking about it. It's an issue that definitely is not going to go away."
More comments from MacArthur and Komisarek
MacArthur: "Once he got to the bench and sat down, he was fine. It was just more or less the three or four steps there he took was the worry I had. I saw him stumbling. I think he just got shaken up there. But he's fine now. He did a great job last night."
"I think anyone's had that, where you get hit and the marbles get rolling around for a second. You lose your depth perception or whatever. Once you can sit down and take a breath you can get back in it. Knock on wood, I'm glad it wasn't a concussion or whatever, so I'm glad he's back tonight."
Komisarek: "I'm definitely not an expert in that field [concussions] but the guy's a warrior. I don't know what the height and weight difference is exactly between him and Chara, but jeez he took a beating and he kept on coming. He got his bell rung - if anything happened, he came back stronger. The guy has been battling all year."Report Typo/Error