Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 12/30/11
It has struck like a pestilence in the NHL this season -- concussions affecting many of the games top stars. Pittsburghs Sidney Crosby. Philadelphias Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger. New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Add to that list, most recently, Nashville defenseman Shea Weber, who is having perhaps as good of a season as any defenseman in the NHL with 8 goals, 21 assists and a plus-14 rating. Weber suffered an unpenalized hit to the head by Dallas Mark Fistric on Dec. 23 and hasnt played since. When the NHLs two-day holiday break ended, Predators coach Barry Trotz initially expressed some optimism that Weber could be ready for Fridays game with St. Louis. Alas, Weber, while, relatively speaking, is feeling good, is no closer to returning and has no timetable for being back out on the ice. Such is the inexact science of concussions a fact the Predators know well. Youre always hoping this is a slight concussion whatever that means, Predators general manager David Poile told FOXSportsTennessee.com. Somebody says there are no such things as concussion-like symptoms. You either have it or you dont have it. Were optimistic. He looks like he feels pretty good but, like I said, theres no timetable. Hes not skating with the team or anything like that. Hes just resting. If its short, its fabulous if it isnt His voice trailed off. Were dealing with what everybodys dealt with and we have many times before in the last few years, another concussion. None of us know the answer: How its going to be played out. As Poile alluded, the Predators, like most NHL teams, are well acquainted now with the murky and mercurial nature of these brain injuries. Last season the organization signed Matthew Lombardi to be its top center, but Lombardi played only in the first two games before missing the entire rest of the season with a concussion. Also last season, defenseman Francis Bouillon went out on Jan. 16 with a concussion. He did not return until Oct. 25 a span of 51 regular season games plus the playoffs over more than 10 months. In Webers case, one of the positives is that he does not have much of a history with the injury. (Often, the more concussions a player has suffered over his career, the injuries become progressively more serious and tend to bring with them longer recovery times.) No, not too much, no, Poile said of Webers history. In what, at this point, would amount to almost a best-case scenario, Weber would miss about the same time as Giroux did. Giroux was out for 11 days and sat out four games. That would be good based on all experiences we and all the other teams in the league have had, Poile said, but I cant answer whether its going to be in a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Well all know the answer when Shea is ready and hes the one who has to go through the process and feel 100 percent and when he does, great. The sooner the better, obviously. Poile said the first step would be for Weber to do some light work on the stationary bike and then, if hes symptom-free, to increase that exercise. If Weber continues symptom-free, the next step would be to return to the ice, first without contact. Eventually, he would need to be cleared for contact all the while not suffering any setbacks which is often the obstacle players suffer at various stages. Poile said the difficulty in treating concussions is that every player is different. Some guys have headaches, some guys have nausea, he said. Some guys are light-sensitive. There is no, You open up to the page and this is what a concussion is. With Weber out, the Predators are learning about some of their young defensemen. Former first-round pick Ryan Ellis, destined by many to be a star, has made his NHL debut in Webers absence, earning praise from Detroit coach Mike Babcock. Ellis has averaged 18:49 and earned some power play time. He is minus-1, as the Preds are 1-1 in those games. Another rookie who also has impressed is Roman Josi. Josi has taken over Webers spot on the teams top defensive pairing with Ryan Suter. In the two games that Weber has been out, Josi has played 22:07 and 24:40. Top-four defenseman Kevin Klein, 27, has almost missed the last five games. The changes have also made the lineup incredibly young on defense: Ellis is 19, Josi 21 and Jon Blum is 22. Josis played real well, Poile said. because Suter is getting big ice time Josi has been getting big ice time and hes looked very good in that position, so, like I say, you find out about some other guys and its kind of a clich isnt it? Some might say it could be bad, but you never know. Sometimes you find out something. Hopefully, were -- certainly with Josi and Ellis, two defenseman -- were putting in prime position that could bode well for the future for us. While Nashville might be pleasantly surprised by the two youngsters, theres no question that it needs Weber long-term to achieve its goals. The team has enjoyed some of the best success in its history on the power play this season. Nashvilles highest season-ending power play rank was 10th in 2005-06 at 18.4 percent. The last five seasons it has finished with the following rankings: 18th, 27th, 26th, 23rd and 26th. At present, the Preds rank second in the NHL at 21.1 percent and in the two games leading up to Webers injury, they went 4-for-8. However, in the two without Weber, they have gone 0-for-8. Webers 13 power play points tie him for 16th in the NHL, fourth among defensemen. To put that in perspective, the league leader has only five more power play points than he does. Indeed, Poile admitted that much of the unit revolves around setting up Weber for one of the hardest slapshots in the league or using the threat of it to set up other plays. With Weber out, Poile said opposing teams have changed up their coverage. Currently seventh in the Western Conference, Nashville has won seven of its last 10 and yet is only one point ahead of ninth-place Dallas for the final playoff spot. As Poile said, the sooner Weber gets back, the better.
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