Edmonton, AB - For the second straight year, Taylor Hall's season has come to a premature close. The 20-year-old will require labral surgery, putting him out of commission for the campaign's remaining six games and up to six months leading into next September's training camp.
While Hall is currently out with a concussion he sustained when Calgary's Cory Sarich pasted him along the boards in Mar. 16's Battle of Alberta, that has nearly healed -- but the timing was right to initiate the steps in recovering from a longstanding problem in No. 4's left shoulder.
The Sarich hit had no impact on Hall's shoulder, however.
"About four years now," he laughed when asked how long it's been a bother. The goal-scoring winger initially suffered the injury in junior, but it's been a nagging concern that got reaggravated upon a collision earlier this season.
"When I got hit in Colorado (on Nov. 26, 2011), it got pretty bad. I rehabbed it in the three weeks after that and it got it pretty strong again, but throughout the year, and I think you guys have seen, that it's been bugging me at certain points in time and it's gotten to the point now where I need to have surgery.
"I've playing with a pretty bad shoulder a lot of this year, and I'm excited to see what it'll be like when I have a new one."
With a hobbled wing, he was still able to produce 27 goals (including a team-high seven game-winning tallies) and 53 points this season.
Hall has long been known for his on-the-edge and sometimes reckless play, but it's also what's made him successful and was the reason for his No. 1 selection in 2010. It could also contribute to his somewhat injury-prone start to his NHL career, but he's certain he won't change his game.
"I didn't anticipate that I'd be playing only 65 and 61 games," Hall said of his rookie and sophomore seasons as an NHLer. "I thought that I'd be a healthy player. It can get to you for sure. It's not the way I envisioned my NHL career starting, but I hope from here that I can play as many games as I can and be a good Oiler for a long time.
"It's really hard to explain. I don't think I'm going to change my game too much. I want to get better as a player and I want to use this time when I sit down to try and improve my game, watching games and whatnot. I'm still going to be the same player when I come back next year."
The shoulder originally caused the sophomore to miss seven games, but he returned on Dec. 10. Then a laceration to his head when Corey Potter's skate blade provided the nastiest of razor nicks took him out for another pair in January, capping a tumultuous and "unlucky" season.
"To be honest, I really think I've had some bad luck," he explained. "This year, I hurt my shoulder because of a previous issue. The concussion is my fault, but these injuries are kind of freak and I hope that in my next years as an Oiler, it doesn't keep happening."
General Manager Steve Tambellini and Head Coach Tom Renney knew that he'd require surgery at some point, but they were both hoping Hall could last the season before it was decided. Regardless, it was a decision made by everyone; coaches, the player, the club's trained medical staff and Dr. Miniaci, an orthopedic surgeon in Cleveland where the procedure will be performed, all had a voice.
"It was assessed by the medical people that he's better off at this point during the season that we get this done now," Tambellini said. "He's a young guy, he'll have a full recovery and we've got the time now to do the proper rehab. He should be ready for the start of (next) season.
"Knowing Taylor and how competitive he is, he'd probably want to go as long as possible. But let's get him healthy, let's get him to Cleveland to see Dr. Miniaci and have the procedure done. It's hard for athletes to look at short-term actions that have to take place."
"Not initially," Renney added, noting that he didn't know that Hall had been injured in junior, "but ultimately I was aware of that. We managed it the best we could, as did the player -- but here we are."
Renney's team is coming off a successful 3-0-1 road trip and has put together an impressive string, but the bench boss knows it would be a difficult absence to overcome if it had happened mid-season or in another vital portion of the 2011-12 season.
"Over the course of anything longer, it would be substantial (blow).
"All new players in the league have to play with a certain level of intelligence in order to have success," Renney said. "Certainly Taylor's got all of that. He's also got this impulsive, spontaneous part to his game that, quite honestly, we need. But what he has to do is experience and decide for himself how he can play in certain circumstances.
"Certainly through video and talking to him about different strategies will help him with that. But you have to play. You've got to get on the bike and fall off before you can really ride it very well."
MORE IN THE SICK BAY
Lennart Petrell and Shawn Horcoff both missed time on the recent road trip, but returned to practice today and could be ready to go in tomorrow's game vs. Dallas.
"They're doing pretty good today," the coach said. "They participated in a practice that had a little bit more vigor to it and some body contact. Reports post-practice are really good and we'll see how they're doing in the morning."
"It feels good today. I think I've able to play tomorrow," Petrell added.
Oddly enough, no one saw when it happened but the Finn knew exactly when he encountered the problem.
"It was pretty early in the game in Nashville," he said. "I was going to hit someone and I missed him. I made a couple strides and knew something was wrong. I came back for a couple shifts, but it only got worse."