McAmmond still feeling effects of Pronger's hit

Updated: June 4, 2007, 2:24 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

OTTAWA -- For a moment, there is some intrigue about whether Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond will play in Game 4 on Monday night.

That intrigue will dissipate as soon as the puck drops on the game, regardless of whether the fourth-line center plays. The natural course of events will dictate that a role player, no matter whether that role player is having a wonderful spring -- as McAmmond is -- is relegated to sidebar status.

Chris Pronger
Ross Dettman for ESPN The MagazineChris Pronger received a one-game suspension for his hit on Dean McAmmond in Game 3 of the Cup finals.

It's something McAmmond had better get used to.

There are sometimes parallels between the hockey world and the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to victims. The focus is mostly on the perpetrators. They evoke the strongest emotions and often are simply the most interesting characters.

The victims? Often they fade into the background.

McAmmond, the victim of the latest violent Chris Pronger outburst, exists in that strange limbo world between pursing a boyhood dream of playing in the Stanley Cup finals and becoming irrelevant.

McAmmond was knocked unconscious with a flying Pronger elbow early in the third period of Game 3 on Saturday night. He skated for the first time since the hit Monday morning, but it's unknown whether he'll play in Game 4.

He acknowledged that he could ride an exercise bike for only four or five minutes Sunday and didn't feel quite right. He skated and did a little more Monday morning, but although the headaches are receding and the stiffness in the neck seems to have subsided, there's still something in his head that isn't where it needs to be.

"I rode today. I didn't have as much discomfort. But because of the kind of the whiplash, for lack of a better term, maybe that's the exact term, I have a lot of stiffness in my neck and whatnot," McAmmond said in his first public comments about the hit (he did make a comment via news release after Pronger's suspension was announced Sunday).

"The headache seems to be going away," McAmmond said. "The neck seems to be loosening up with movement. That's pretty good, but there's other things, too. Just sometimes, if you ever got clunked in the head, you go along. Some things you just know aren't right. It just doesn't feel right."

Ottawa coach Bryan Murray was likewise uncertain as to McAmmond's availability.

"He's taking a light skate. We'll see how he feels afterwards," Murray said. "Obviously, we have to talk to the doctors before we let him play, but he's trying. He'd like to play. But in talking to him, he's certainly not 100 percent at this moment."

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle was asked whether he would be surprised if McAmmond played Monday and answered quite cattily that "People make huge strides in their recovery after suspensions. It's amazing."

The implication, of course, is that McAmmond somehow embellished being knocked unconscious by 6-foot-6 Pronger, who is sitting out a league-imposed suspension for the seventh time in his career.

Here's the thing, though. Sometimes, players don't come back right away. Sometimes, they don't play that night or the next night or the night after that.

McAmmond recalled being in Calgary and seeing teammate Matthew Lombardi take an elbow in a playoff game from Derian Hatcher. The blow left Lombardi unable to play for weeks.

"I feel like I seem to be back on that track [to recovery], so I'd like to be in the lineup tonight. And there's a chance. It's just a matter of if you rush it too quick, you maybe set yourself back again," McAmmond said.

McAmmond said that he has seen the replay and that it has helped him fill in some of what were blurry gaps in the evening.

"Actually, after watching the play, I kind of faintly remember getting that loose puck [shortly before the hit]," McAmmond said. "But up until that point, I couldn't remember much past being in the dressing room in the second intermission and then up to where they got me back to the dressing room after the hit."

The 33-year-old native of Grand Cache, Alberta, said he harbors no ill will toward Pronger.

"I'm really not that way. I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to him in return or anything like that," McAmmond said.

Regardless of when he might return to action, as early as Monday or sometime down the road, soft-spoken McAmmond hasn't lost his sense of humor.

Asked whether he had any discomfort while shooting, he said, "Yeah, for about 16 years now."

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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