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Expert: KO doesn't mean 'worst' concussion for Pens' Orpik

| Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, 10:51 a.m.

Brooks Orpik does not remember anything that happened after the national anthem at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that and Orpik's symptoms of headaches and neck soreness on Monday.

Orpik, a defenseman, is on injured reserve with a concussion, though Bylsma and Penguins general manager Ray Shero said the Penguins' longest-tenured player was “quite well” since Boston's Shawn Thornton jumped him during the first period Saturday night.

“He left the game on a stretcher in a pretty scary state,” Bylsma said of Orpik. “ ‘Quite well' means he's up and around.”

Losing consciousness, as Bylsma said Orpik did for at least 30 seconds, is no indication that Orpik has “the worst kind of concussion,” a leading neurosurgeon told the Tribune-Review.

“Here's one thing we've learned in recent years: A lot of times, concussions when you aren't knocked out are worse because they offer problems for a long time,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director of NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Ill.

“Sidney Crosby was a great example.”

Crosby, the Penguins captain, played in only eight games from January 2011 to March 2012 because of lingering concussion symptoms that included light sensitivity, disorientation and also headaches and neck soreness.

Orpik, per club policy on injured players, has not been available for comment.

Bailes, a longtime concussion consultant with the NFL Players Association, said that were he treating Orpik, he would probably “wait a few days” before administering a cognitive baseline test that players must pass to receive return-to-play clearance as part of NHL protocol.

“But other people may vary on that,” Bailes said.

Orpik was one of three Penguins defensemen not to miss a game. That group is now comprised of rookie Olli Maatta and veteran Matt Niskanen, neither of who figured in July they would be playing for the Penguins at this point.

Maatta has played the last month with Kris Letang, the only remaining healthy top-four defenseman because of injuries to Orpik, Paul Martin (foot) and Rob Scuderi (ankle). Prospect Brian Dumoulin was recalled from the AHL on Monday.

Orpik was third among all defensemen with 92 hits — nearly matching the combined total of Niskanen and Deryk Engelland (103). The Penguins defense corps was credited with nine hits in a 2-1 win over Columbus on Monday night.

“He brings that physicality for our whole team, not just on defense,” Letang said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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