Jake Gardiner has been a quick learner ever since he stepped into a full-time role on the Maple Leafs’ blueline, and he’s continued what appears to be an all-star calibre campaign with the Toronto Marlies during the lockout.
“The hit came from the other side — he (Gardiner) had gone in at the side of the net to retrieve a puck and the other player came in from behind the net,” Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said. “He (Gardiner) got flung and there was contact with the face area. We’ll keep on top of it and whether it’s a neck or a concussion, we won’t have him back out there until he is ready to go.”
Gardiner is showing concussion symptoms, but Eakins says the injury is not being called a concussion.
“He’s good, but it’s funny with these (hits to the head). They’re all different and every player is different. Some guys get knocked out cold and lay on the ice but get up and are fine, and some get a brush and are out for a long time,” Eakins said.
“(Gardiner) got hit from behind, he didn’t see it coming. He got a big whiplash, but he finished the play and the period, and he scored a goal. Between periods he said (his neck) was stiff and he didn’t feel right. Headaches and things like that are symptoms of concussions and we’re not saying he has a concussion. He wanted to go back out on the ice but we held him back. He’s improved every day and every day he is better . . . but he’s still having a pain in his neck and the headache is still there a bit. Just that feeling, he doesn’t quite feel himself. So we held him out and we will continue to do so until he is 100 per cent right.”
The Marlies play two games this weekend, and there is nothing definitive on Gardiner’s status for a return to the lineup.
Gardiner, meanwhile, is ranked second in AHL scoring among defencemen with nine goals in 22 games. Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry tweeted about him earlier this week, referring to Gardiner as one of the best players he’s seen in the AHL this season.
“He’s an American, he’s big, got nice hands and an edge to his play,” Cherry tweeted.