October 29, 2010
The Buffalo Sabres face the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night, and Jason Pominville(notes) will not be in the lineup. If this was Oct. 29, 1990, he would have been. But not in 2010, when player safety and concussion testing are paramount.
Pominville hasn't played since Oct. 11, when a Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes) hit left him with a concussion. He's been back at practice, performing drills and going full steam according to reports. The last obstacle for his return to the Sabres was a neuropsych test he took on Wednesday.
It remains an obstacle, as Pominville failed the test and left his coach disappointed. From Sabres Edge on the Buffalo News:
"The disappointment is everybody really thought after the days of practice and the work he put in that he was going to be playing, and I was one of them, too," coach Lindy Ruff said in Philips Arena. "There's been no ill effects from practicing. He's gone full go. He's gone through battle drills. He had no headaches, stuff like that. There have been no side effects to exercise. Normally, what sets a guy back is he will have headaches or he won't feel right, or he may feel dizzy or lightheaded, but Jason has had none of that, so it's a little bit of a different area for us."
Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night In Canada had a great piece last weekend (video) about concussions and concussion testing that seems especially relevant with Pominville's plight. In the Sabres winger's case, he took the test healthy and can't be declared symptom-free until he matches that baseline again.
Which brings us to a theory apparently shared by both player and coach, according to Sabres writer John Vogl: Did Pominville ace a test that he simply can't ace again? From the Buffalo News:
"If the first time you did you had a great day, it might be tough to get back to that level," [said Pominville]
Ruff joins Pominville's concern that the winger may have done so well the first time that it could be a difficult struggle to match the score no matter how healthy he feels.
"We talked about that," Ruff said. "That is a real possibility. Maybe it's one of those tests you got 100 percent, and you're an 80 percent student."
Let that be a lesson to all of you potential concussion victims in the NHL: If you want back in the lineup, dummy-up the baseline test.