At an informal noon news conference held in the Nashville Predators locker room, David Poile and Scott Walker announced that Walker would be undergoing surgery Thursday to correct an abdominal problem that has kept him from the lineup since October 22.
"I wish i was announcing here that Scott Walker was ready to play tonight but that is not the case," Poile said. "After reviewing with our doctor, Dr. Pagnani, and in consultation with a doctor in St. Louis, Dr. Brunt, Scott is going to have an operation on Thursday in St. Louis. It's for a sports hernia. As I think most of you know, but in quick review, Scott tweaked something in his stomach. I'm not sure he's exactly sure when and where. He did play a couple of games with it, not quite as effective as he would like to be. The doctor's diagnosis was that this was a little bit of a stomach pull or this sports hernia situation. The hope was, by giving it a couple weeks' rest, that it would calm down and Scott would be ready to play. He's tried to increase his workload a little bit, but he still has that feeling in his stomach. The unanimous recommendation and the agreement by Scott is let's get this done and taken care of. The bad news here is that this is probably an eight- to 10-week period of time that Scott could be out. There's a chance it could be a little quicker than that, but realistically that's what we're looking at."
Walker, who has one goal, four assists and six penalty minutes in seven games this season, is on the Predators' injured reserve list retroactive to Oct. 18. He said the past couple of weeks have been spent trying to determine if the injury was going to heal on its own.
"Sometimes they'll heal up by themselves," Walker said, "and then I guess the 10-day, two-week period is kind of their judgment where they feel if you're not getting much better beyond that then it's time to go in and do the surgery. I went down to St. Louis. I met with Dr. Brunt. I felt really comfortable with him, with what he was saying. That being said, I even asked after that for a couple of more days to see if I could feel some more progress. I thought I was getting better, but it seems like every day I wake up I feel fine, and then halfway through the day I'll do one or two things that really shoot the pain in my abdomen.
"I think the greatest fear before, when we talked about maybe having to do the surgery, was I'd always been under the assumption that maybe it was season-ending surgery," he added. "So if there is any silver lining, it's that I can hopefully be back sometime in January and get a bulk of games in before the break, and then after the break have a good run for the playoffs.... It's the first time I've had to do a surgery, so I'm obviously a little bit nervous, but I've talked to a few guys that have had it done and they've been as good if not better when they came back, and feel strong for years after."
The 5-10, 196-pound Cambridge, Ont. native explained that there are a few options when it comes to the procedure. One involves using existing tendons to make the repair, while an alternative employs a piece of mesh to which the surgeon sews each side of the muscle. Dr. Michael Brunt, who will be conducting Walker's surgery on Thursday, recommended the latter.
"He's had great success with it," Walker said. "He feels comfortable with it, and I feel comfortable with that."
Walker, one of only three Predators remaining from those selected in the 1998 Expansion Draft, explained that the pain reveals itself when he pivots or moves laterally--whether during everyday activity or on the ice. "It was obviously more intense because I was playing," he said, "and then the next day at practice it would be hurting all through practice. It just became where there was no sense not being able to practice all year and [to] just try to get through games. That wasn't being successful and I don't think it would have gotten much better. If anything, my play and the pain would have deteriorated."
Walker discussed the difficult decision that a player has to make when it comes to playing or sitting out. "You have to be realistic with yourself and with the coaches and with the team," he said, adding that a player cannot risk the team's success by continuing to play and mistakenly thinking he's doing the job. Still, Walker expressed how hard it is to be away from the game for any length of time.
"It kills me not to be out there," he said. "I love the game. I love the guys. When they were away for the week in L.A., not being able to come down and hang out with them at practice like I did this morning and [like] I have, it's difficult for me. I'm trying to stay really positive, because I'm excited that I'm going to be able to get back and be able to play in this season."
Meanwhile, Poile is expecting some other players to step in and fill the void left by the franchise's all-time leader in goals and points.
"There's no question you're always looking for other people to be given an opportunity and then take advantage of that opportunity," the Predators GM said. "We'll see how it goes. There's no replacing Scott at this point, but hopefully someone will jump up and take advantage of the opportunities given to them."