Paul Ranger does not know when he will be able to play another NHL game for the Toronto Maple Leafs but he still feels lucky.
The Leafs defenceman spoke to the media Friday for the first time since he was driven into the glass from behind by Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn during a game Wednesday night. Ranger, 29, lay on the ice for several frightening minutes, then was immobilized and taken to hospital before he was discharged later Wednesday night after undergoing tests.
The best Ranger could manage on Friday was appearing for the Leafs’ team photo and he isn’t sure when he can start practising again. But he feels lucky to have escaped with a sore neck and no concussion.
“Yeah, I’m thankful,” he said. “It was pretty scary.”
Ranger said he did not feel any pain in the first few seconds after the hit, perhaps because he “went into preservation mode.” But the pain in his neck came quickly, although Ranger said he was able to quickly push any fear out of his mind.
While he was lying on the ice as the Leafs’ medical staff worked on him, Ranger said he kept thinking, “I can move my legs, I can feel my hands, I can feel my feet and I'm going to be okay no matter what.”
Ranger was hit with four seconds left in the first period and his Leafs teammates stayed on the ice to make sure he was all right by the time he was wheeled off on a stretcher. Also staying on the ice were several Lightning players, as Ranger was their friend from his days playing in Tampa.
Some of his former teammates told him that Killorn, who called Ranger and left a voice message after the game, was not the kind of person who would deliberately run someone from behind. Ranger did not seem upset the NHL decided the hit did not rate further punishment than the major penalty and game misconduct Killorn received, probably because it appeared Ranger turned into the hit. But Ranger would like to see such hits be reviewed closely.
“I haven’t really seen the replays [of the hit], nor do I want to,” Ranger said. “I watched it once. That was enough. I think it is something that happens a lot in our game. I think it needs looking at [but] I don’t think it’s up to me if someone gets suspended or not.”
Ranger said he spoke to Killorn at some point following his discharge from hospital but “what was said will remain between us.”
The other good news for the Leafs concerns centre Dave Bolland, who took part in a full practice for the first time since he sustained a torn ankle tendon Nov. 2 that kept him out for 52 games. He skated between Mason Raymond and David Clarkson but a decision about playing Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens will not be made until shortly before the game.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Bolland said.
Also on the maybe list is goaltender Jonathan Bernier, whose groin injury progressed enough for him to participate in most of Friday’s practice. But a decision about whether Bernier or James Reimer will start against the Habs will also be held until game-time.
Bernier said he feels better but was non-committal about his status.
“It’s a critical time so I want to make sure I’m 100-per-cent and my body feels pretty good,” he said.
If Bolland is able to play, the Leafs may have to send two players down to their farm team to get under the NHL salary cap unless Ranger is placed on the long-term injured list. The likely candidates are forwards Peter Holland and Carter Ashton, neither of whom needs to clear waivers first.