Michalek Injured: “It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again”

Judging by the photograph above, you would think that the injury that Milan Michalek suffered in his awkward collision with teammate Erik Karlsson was one to his shoulder. Not so fast according to NBC Sports ProHockeyTalk’s James O’Brien:

Tonight was supposed to present a great moment for Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michalek. The slick winger passed Phil Kessel for the goal-scoring lead with 19 only to suffer an upper-body injury in the same game.

Worse yet, that upper-body injury very well might be (you guessed it): a concussion.

While the specific details of Michalek’s upper-body injury haven’t been disclosed by the Senators (note:Don Brennan is reporting that it’s either a shoulder injury or a head injury), you can only hold out hope that his injury isn’t that serious and that he was just being held out for precautionary reasons.

The Associated Press is reporting that Michalek left with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the second after colliding with Karlsson. Senators coach Paul MacLean said Michalek would be re-evaluated when the team returned to Ottawa, where the club plays Boston on Wednesday.

As you can see from the following photo however, the collision itself occurs with 15 minutes and 36 seconds left on the clock.

Using the NHL’s shift charts, one can see that after the collision Michalek took three shifts before leaving the game: a 20 second one; a 40 second one; and a 10 second one. Looking at the shift chart below, Michalek’s shifts are on the blue bars featured in the top line and Karlsson’s are the blue bars on the bottom line. The red line marks the time that the collision happened. (Hat tip to Scott for the photos.)

Thanks to these three subsequent shifts, I’m holding out some hope that the injury itself isn’t that serious. However, if it is indeed an injury to his head, the parallels that can be drawn between this season and his 2009-10 season are uncanny.

If you’ll remember, after posting 16 goals and 6 assists in his first 44 games of the 2009-10 season, Michalek suffered a concussion in a game against the Washington Capitals on January 7th, 2010. The injury caused him to miss seven games; after which, he never really resembled the same player who had a relatively productive first half of the season.

Fast forward to the present: through 31 games, Milan leads the NHL with 19 goals and he also has 6 assists. A strong argument can be made that Michalek’s been Ottawa’s best all-around player.

Considering that Nikita Filatov was just loaned to Russia and the team is in the thick of a playoff, the timing of the injury couldn’t be worse. Well, unless you believe in Bobby Butler’s abilities or would prefer to see the team bottom out. (Note: Cue the revisionist assholes who will come out of the woodwork and rip GM Bryan Murray for not forcing Filatov to play in Binghamton and fulfill the rest of his NHL contract.)

As others have noted, this is the second time in less than a week that an incidental collision with a teammate has resulted in an injury to a star player. This past Saturday, Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux sustained a concussion when teammate Wayne Simmonds inadvertently kneed him in the back of the head as he laid prone on the ice. As a colleague of mine put it, could you imagine the league’s leading point scorer (Giroux) and goal scorer (Michalek) being concussed by teammates while a Hall of Fame defenceman (Pronger) and the best and most marketable player (Crosby) are also sidelined with the same injury?

It’s a sobering thought.

Michalek has dealt with concussion-like symptoms in the past. As I mentioned earlier, he dealt with a concussion in January, 2010. He also sat out two postseason games against the Oilers in May of 2006.

Oddly enough, Milan’s brother Zbynek, a defenceman for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is currently on the IR with a concussion of his own.