NHL Notes: Sens' Jason Spezza returns to practice

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NHL Notes: Sens' Jason Spezza returns to practice

OTTAWA -- Fresh off their first-round elimination of the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators had a familiar face back on the ice on Sunday.

No. 1 center Jason Spezza practiced with his teammates for the first time since undergoing back surgery for a herniated disk on Feb. 1 and says it was nice to take another step in his recovery.

"It's been a long process and a long season for me," Spezza said. "It felt good to join the team again and get some reps in. It may not seem like it and I may not play this year, but for me it's a small victory."

Despite speculation that Spezza could be done for the season, the fact the 29-year-old took part in a full practice was encouraging for the Senators, who will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.

Spezza, who had been skating on his own before joining Ottawa's AHL callups for more training, says he had some "ups and downs" over the course of his recovery but made improvements over the past few weeks that allowed him to take part in a regular practice.

Whether or not he plays this season depends on how his body reacts (see full story).

Hitchcock downplays Halak flap
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it was no big deal that he and goalie Jaroslav Halak argued about playing time during the playoffs, calling it an "everyday occurrence."

Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong both said Sunday that he didn't anticipate major roster changes after the Blues squandered a 2-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings and lost four in a row against the Los Angeles Kings after taking a 2-0 series lead.

Addressing Halak, Hitchcock said he'd have been surprised if the goalie was unhappy about not getting used in the playoffs. Halak wasn't at the Scottrade Center when the locker room opened to media.

"With Jaro that's an everyday occurrence like arguments and discussions that go on with players and playing time that was discussed in the meeting today," Hitchcock said. "If he wasn't disappointed I'd be surprised. I don't care. If you're under contract, you're ready to play."

Halak is among three goalies in the mix with Brian Elliott, who started all six games against the Kings, and rookie Jake Allen (see full story).

Derek Boogaard's family files suit against NHL
The New York Times is reporting that Derek Boogaard's family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Hockey League.

In the lawsuit, the family says the NHL is responsible for the brain damage that Boogaard sustained during six seasons as an enforcer in the league, and for his addiction to prescription painkillers.

Boogaard was found dead of an accidental overdose of pain medication and alcohol on May 13, 2011. He was 28. He was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain ailment that is caused by repeated blows to the head.

The Times reports the suit was filed late Friday by the Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

"To distill this to one sentence," William Gibbs, attorney for the Boogaards, told The Times, "you take a young man, you subject him to trauma, you give him pills for that trauma, he becomes addicted to those pills, you promise to treat him for that addiction, and you fail," (see full story).

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. William Meyers may have saved Nolan Patrick’s career June 13 when the 18-year-old NHL prospect elected to have corrective surgery on a core muscle injury that had been bothering him for the better part of the past year.

Prior to his initial visit to Philadelphia, Patrick believed he was fully healthy when he went through comprehensive testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in May, but his time on the ice told a much different story.

“I was probably 60 percent when I first started playing and maybe got up to 70, 75 tops,” Patrick said at development camp earlier this month. “I never had any wind during games. I’d lose my energy really quick because I’d lose it trying to skate with that injury. Probably 75 tops, I’d say.”

But what Patrick was completely unaware of, as are the many doctors who perform these core muscle surgeries, is the prevalence of how these complex injuries are misinterpreted. The Flyers' rookie should have had a typical four-to-six week recovery last summer, and any setback likely would have been avoided. 

Patrick’s first operation took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, by Dr. James Robinson who, according to Patrick’s agent Kevin Epp, came recommended from the Jets' organization.

“I don’t think it had time to heal,” Epp said Monday in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. “Nolan got the surgery to fix the injured area at the time. I don’t know if both sides needed repair. Through the course of rehab he may have aggravated the other side.” 

“It’s tough to explain but it’s a sharp, shooting pain in your lower stomach," Patrick said. “I had it on both sides for a while there. I got one side fixed and then was having issues on that side again."

Whether Patrick was misdiagnosed or the procedure and subsequent rehabilitation were mishandled is certainly open for debate.

In speaking with Meyers of the Vincera Institute, he could not discuss specifically Patrick’s injury or his surgery, but said he performs “on average 10 procedures during a regular clinical day” in which the original surgeon failed to correct the problem area and the result is either a re-aggravation or the development of another injury altogether.

“The number one cause is a failure to understand that the prevalent concepts of ‘hernias’ have nothing to do with these injuries,” Meyers said.

Meyers believes the reason why core muscle injuries aren’t performed correctly are three-fold:  

• A general failure to understand the whole concept of the core muscle region (the area from mid abdomen to mid thigh).  

• A lack of knowledge regarding the anatomy.

• Very little experience seeing a variety of core muscle injuries and correlating that with the imaging. 

Over the past 35 years, Meyers has dedicated his medical career to the complex field of core muscle injuries, and what he has witnessed is a very disturbing trend. He’s the pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of core muscle injuries, working primarily in his two-story complex at the Navy Yard. 

“The reason why I got into this area was so many hockey players in the 1980s were forced to retire too early because of these [core muscle] injuries," Meyers said. "It was, at that time, the number one reason why they retired.”

Perhaps the one popular Flyer whose career succumbed to persistent groin pain was Mikael Renberg, who retired in 2008 at the age of 35 after undergoing three separate groin procedures over a 12-year span.

Patrick saved himself the agony and was thoroughly convinced a corrective procedure performed by Meyers prior to the draft was vital to his career, regardless of who selected him.

The Flyers were also convinced. Patrick didn’t have an injury history, just history of an injury that never healed in the first place. 

Thankfully, they knew the one doctor who could get down to the core of the problem.

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.