BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller had a big scare when he was hit by Ottawa Senators defenseman Eric Gryba on May 2, but nine days later Eller said he is feeling better and expects to make a full recovery.
Eller sustained a concussion and a broken nose after being knocked unconscious by the hit and having his face crash against the ice in the second period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
He said there's about 10 minutes of that night he doesn't remember, but his recovery from the concussion is nearly complete.
"I feel good," Eller said Saturday as the Canadiens cleaned out their lockers following their five-game elimination by the Senators. "I feel clear in my mind, I don't have any headaches or stuff like that. But I have had some tests that confirmed there are still some effects from the brain trauma. I'm not completely healed yet in my brain, neurologically-wise there's still some healing going on. How long that is going to take I can't say, but the way things are going, looking back a week now, there's no reason to think I shouldn't be able to make a full recovery."
"I'm not completely healed yet in my brain, neurologically-wise there's still some healing going on. How long that is going to take I can't say, but the way things are going, looking back a week now, there's no reason to think I shouldn't be able to make a full recovery."
-- Canadiens center Lars Eller
Eller called the whole episode a "tough experience" for him and his family.
The debate over the legality of Gryba's hit, which earned him a two-game suspension from the NHL, was fierce. Eller did not want to discuss what he thought of the hit, saying the NHL dealt with it, but he said the chatter surrounding it didn't particularly concern him while he was being treated in the hospital.
"You're worried about other things," Eller said, somewhat obviously. "Do you have bleeding in your brain? What's the doctor going to say when he walks in?"
One aspect of the hit that appeared to influence a lot of people's opinions on it was the pass delivered by Montreal defenseman Raphael Diaz just before impact. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean referred to Diaz by his jersey number in blaming him for making the pass, something that got a serious rise out of Montreal coach Michel Therrien the following day.
"I feel really bad for him," Eller said of Diaz. "It's not his fault. Definitely not his fault, not at all. If he feels guilty in any way, he shouldn't. People don't understand how fast it happens out there and you have a split second to make a decision. It's just that fast."
The injury put an end to what was a promising season for Eller, one that began with him being scratched for the second and third games of the season by Therrien for a lack of intensity, but which ended with him becoming one of the team's top forwards and its leading scorer in April with 13 points in 14 games.
"I'm happy with my progression," Eller, 24, said. "I feel I took another step forward this year, as was my intent, but I still feel there's more I can do better."
The good news is that Eller should get that opportunity next season, when he should be fully recovered from a devastating hit that was thankfully not as damaging as it initially looked.