ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal has a concussion from his head-first crash into the boards.
Fortunately, the dangerous collision didn’t damage him further than that. He knew it looked bad enough that, when he greeted his wife soon after, he apologized to her for having to wince her way through the scary sequence.
“It’s no fun to watch. She’s watched a lot of hockey over time, and I’m sure when you see your husband in that state, it can shake you up a little bit,” Staal said, reflecting on his early exit from Game 5 on Saturday against St. Louis before the Wild were eliminated from the first-round series by the Blues.
If the Wild were still alive in the playoffs, general manager Chuck Fletcher said, Staal would be out for a while. He said he was significantly improved on Tuesday from the first 24 to 48 hours that followed the hit. Staal said he’s had “one or two” concussions previously in his career.
[graphiq id=”gcrqhHhJyp7″ title=”Eric Staal Profile” width=”600″ height=”736″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/gcrqhHhJyp7″ ]
“I’ve done a lot of sleeping, but I felt better every day, clearer every day, so I feel good,” he said.
After Staal tripped near the Blues net at the end of a breakaway, knocked off balance by defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and clipped by the skate of goalie Jake Allen, he barreled full-speed ahead into the barrier.
Staal said he initially felt some numbness in his feet, which triggered concern about back or neck trouble, but he was eventually able to get up and leave the ice with assistance before being taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
“You’re just trying to process everything that’s going on, and you’re just trying to answer the questions honestly of what I was feeling at that moment,” Staal said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t any worse with some of the stuff that could have happened. I was lucky that I got a lot of good help from a lot of good people.”
As for other injuries? Fletcher revealed that right wing Mikael Granlund was playing with a broken hand suffered from a blocked shot in Game 1 of the series.
With 28 goals in his Wild debut, Staal posted his highest total in six years, one of a long list of players on the team who either enjoyed career seasons or produced at a higher rate than they had been recently. The 32-year-old was one of four players who appeared in all 82 games for Minnesota.
“As difficult as it is to swallow and how tough it is right now, I don’t think there’s a ton of huge changes that need to be made for us to be a top, effective team next season,” Staal said.
That was the prevailing sentiment on Tuesday as players and coaches gathered for the final time.
“There’s a lot of upside, where we’re going to get better rather than be on the decline,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “And they all know me now, so they know what to expect come training camp.”
Fletcher said he has full faith in goalie Devan Dubnyk’s ability to take over playoff games like Allen did against the Wild, though he acknowledged the need for a stronger backup to help reduce Dubnyk’s wear down the stretch. But the boss of a team that’s only 2-5 in postseason series in his eight years said he sees no reason for wholesale changes to the roster.
Boudreau’s history with the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks before he was hired by Minnesota is filled with short postseason appearances like this one , but the Wild expressed confidence that he’s the coach who can lead them past their own early-round roadblocks.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to your players, right?” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “You have to perform at your best in the playoffs, and we were unable to do that.”
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