The play that gave Lubomir Visnovsky a concussion was an odd, almost casual check Saturday night by
Radek Dvorak. [edit: Upon further review, it was Riley Nash who delivered the hit, though Dvorak was on the ice further up the boards]. You can armchair diagnose that as hinting it would be a "mild" concussion that wouldn't keep him out long, or you can read it as a scary vulnerability.
Concussions in the NHL have certainly run the gamut of severity and circumstance, with players recovering from devastating hits quickly, and other players sitting out for months after what looked like modest contact. The brain is a delicate, confounding thing, so it's not very instructive to guess how long Visnovsky will be out until he is re-evaluated. He does have at least one reported concussion from his past, back in 2004.
For the Islanders, who announced the concussion during the 4-3 loss to Carolina and said Visnovsky would be evaluated Sunday, the question is what to do next if it looks like he'll be out a while?
What they shouldn't want to do is put 30 minutes a night on Andrew MacDonald, whose play early last season indicated that his effectiveness drops under such heavy minutes. (MacDonald played 30:25 Saturday after Visnovsky left during the first period.)
What they also shouldn't want to do is re-sign Radek Martinek, who was in training camp on a PTO and skated with the team again after Griffin Reinhart was returned to his junior team.
Arthur Staple of Newsday suggests that's an option, however:
If he needs a stay on injured reserve the Islanders would likely sign veteran defenseman Radek Martinek, who has been skating with the team the past week but does not have a contract.
It would be odd to commit to Martinek for the season if Visnovsky would only miss a week or even a month. The Islanders already have seven defensemen at the NHL level: Matt Donovan was a healthy scratch Saturday against the Hurricanes, but he played well in his previous game against the Oilers.
Moreover, Aaron Ness and Calvin de Haan are two defensemen prospects at AHL Bridgeport who are likely to get another chance in the NHL this season -- and could at minimum be of service in an emergency -- if injuries dictate. This ... would seem to be a moment where injuries dictate.
One of the fears, no doubt, is a hesitation to rely on too many green blueliners at once. That's the kind of conservative approach that brings Martinek back in the picture at age 37 to begin with.
Finally, one more variable if Visnovsky's concussion keeps him out for a meaningful length of time: New roles for existing Isles defensemen, particularly Visnovsky's regular partner Thomas Hickey. Hickey has shined so far this season and played particularly well Saturday night during Visnovsky's absence.
In fact, Hickey has mostly excelled ever since he formed a regular pairing with Visnovsky last season, so this would be an opportunity to see how good he can be without his regular partner -- and to see how the other defensemen do in remixed pairings.
Before Saturday night, 2013 had been a lucky year for the Islanders on the injury front. No major injuries during the lockout season, and the only injury coming out of camp was Cal Clutterbuck's leg laceration which kept him out much less than originally expected.
If Visnovsky is out a while, it's a test for the roster, and for the organization's evaluation of its own talent.