Capitals’ Eric Fehr returns to game after being hit in the head by Florida’s Erik Gudbranson

December 14, 2013

The scene immediately after Erik Gudbranson, in the background, drilled Washington’s Eric Fehr in the head. (Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

Eric Fehr was trying to play the puck in the neutral zone during the second period of Washington’s eventual 3-2 shootout loss when Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson delivered a hit to his head.

Views of the hit from multiple angles (video at the bottom of the post) shows Gudbranson raise his right shoulder and elbow to make direct contact with Fehr’s face.

Fehr immediately went to the Capitals’ dressing room with 16:16 gone in the second period, but after passing the SCAT2 evaluation test that is required by the NHL’s concussion protocol, the winger returned to the game in the third period.

“I don’t know what his intent was exactly, I haven’t seen the replay so I’m not going to comment on that. It didn’t feel good,” Fehr said. “That was a close call, definitely. It definitely stung me. I think I dodged a bullet there.”

Fehr took 10 shifts after the hit, skating 8:18, between the third period and overtime and was the first player with an attempt in the shootout. Asked if Gudbranson had delivered an elbow to his head, Fehr said he “felt something pretty sturdy”.

“I feel a lot better,” Fehr said. “Just a little dazed from the hit but felt a lot better after I went in the room.”

Fehr, 28, said he’s never had a concussion. While it’s certainly encouraging that Fehr was able to return to the game, concussion symptoms can sometimes present themselves several days after an incident so it may take a bit longer to know if he’s completely out of harm’s way.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom practiced two days after Rene Bourque elbowed him in 2012 but then experienced symptoms after he traveled to California with the team. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog had a similar situation occur in 2013 when, after a big hit by Brad Stuart, he passed initial tests and then returned to a game only to have problems surface two days later.

Gudbranson, who has never received supplementary discipline from the NHL in his three-year career, received a match penalty for the hit. By receiving a match penalty, Gudbranson is “automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue” according to the NHL rulebook. Given that Gudbranson made direct contact with Fehr’s head, a suspension would not be out of place.

“I saw it. To me it looked like he hit the head first, but that’s up to the league to review it,” Backstrom said. “I’m sure [NHL Vice President of Player Safety] Brendan Shanahan will take a look at that.”

More to come Saturday in Five Thoughts on Troy Brouwer challenging Gudbranson to a fight after the hit.

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