A violent slash of a hockey stick left Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner with a broken jaw Saturday night, and many now wondering who will fill the team's void up front.
A high stick from Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian, late in the second second period, leaves Gagner out indefinitely for the season and now Kassian faces an eight-game suspension -- three preseason games and five regular season games.
Brendan Shanahan explains the hit in the video, pointing out that Kassian began to swing his stick long before hitting the boards.
Predicatibly, Kassian said he didn't intend for his stick to make contact with Gagner's face, and the NHL called it a "spinning stop" that ended recklessly.
Gagner kept his sense of humour about the hit, tweeting from his hospital bed a picture of his mangled jaw and bloodied mouth.
The injury, however, raises questions about how the Oilers should proceed without Gagner, considering No. 1 centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also out until November while rehabbing a shoulder operation.
Edmonton Journal sports reporter John MacKinnon says "there’s little question that heavier, tougher teams lean on the Oilers, or cheap-shot them with impunity," and questions if the "Oilers should identify and sign a bona fide tough guy to protect their covey of small, swift and skilled forwards, all of whom continue to be targets for reckless, dirty play by their opponents."
Oilers GM Craig MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun doctors won't have to wire Gagner's jaw shut during today's surgery.
“It’s a huge loss for us,” veteran winger Ryan Smyth told Canoe Sports.
“Losing Nuge and Sam, those are two big offensive guys who carry a lot of load. Those are big holes to fill," he said.
“It’s just a matter of fighting through it. That’s what makes teams successful, fighting through adversity.”
Gagner's tweet from the hospital is reminiscent Taylor Hall's injury last year, when he showed off 30 stitches on his head after getting clipped with a teammate's skate after taking a tumble on the ice.
He was out just two games following the injury.
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