BOSTON (CBS) — When Bruce Cassidy spoke to the media after losing Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins head coach expressed optimism that perhaps Matt Grzelcyk was OK after sustaining a hit to the head that ended his night early. Roughly 12 hours later, Cassidy announced that his hopes had been dashed.
Cassidy told the media on Thursday that Grzelcyk had officially been placed in the NHL’s concussion protocol after taking a hit from St. Louis’ Oskar Sundqvist late in the first period of the Blues’ 3-2 overtime win in Game 2. Sundqvist was issued a two-minute minor penalty for boarding on the play, and he’ll face a disciplinary hearing with the NHL department of player safety for the hit.
“He’s in the protocol,” Cassidy said. “When we have a further update, we’ll give it to you. We’re going to list him as day-to-day. … Right now, that’s the best I got for you. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Grzelcyk, 25, was averaging 17 minutes of ice time per night this postseason, before being forced out of Game 2 after skating just 4:29.
As for the protocol, here’s how the NHL lays out its process for players recovering from concussions: “Players who are diagnosed with a concussion should undergo an initial period of rest until symptoms have subsided to the point where activity can be gradually introduced without significantly exacerbating symptoms or provoking new symptoms.”
The league notes that “each player’s concussion shall be managed on an individualized basis,” adding that “there is no particular program of graded progression, nor is there a minimum period of time for progression from one step to the next in the graded exercise progression.”
After a player is deemed healthy enough to not have any concussion-like symptoms both at rest and upon exertion, the player will then meet with the team’s neuropsychologist. A player cannot return to full-contact practice before consulting with the neuropsychologist.
That consultation will include the administering of “ImPACT and the NHL Paper and Pencil neuropsychological test battery.” The neuropsychologist then has to share the results of that consultation with the team’s physician and/or head trainer.
A player can return to play in games after three steps have been resolved:
1. “There is complete recovery of concussion-related symptoms at rest.”
2. “There is no emergence of concussion-related symptoms at exertion levels required for competitive play.”
3. “The player has been judged by the club’s physician to have returned to his neurocognitive baseline following an evaluation by the club-consulting neuropsychologist.”
The league adds that there is no mandatory minimum amount of time a player must remain off the ice while recovering from a concussion, and the final decision falls upon the shoulders of the team physician.
“The club physician remains solely responsible for making return to play decisions based on these parameters, including in circumstances where the player is referred to a consultant for management and treatment,” the policy reads.
Given those parameters, there’s really no strict guideline or timeline to try to forecast when or if Grzelcyk might be able to return in the Stanley Cup Final. For now, he won’t be traveling with the team to St. Louis. If his symptoms subside, it remains possible that Grzelcyk can end up back on the ice before the series ends, though it’s equally possible that the symptoms end his season prematurely.