Alex Plante is listed as day-to-day on the Oklahoma City Barons' injury report.
That's two upgrades, from indefinitely to week-to-week, but that's not good enough. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound defenseman is everyday-antsy about returning to the ice and helping Oklahoma City's drive to the American Hockey League playoffs. Plante has spent parts of the last four months on the disabled list after suffering two concussions.
The first head injury came Dec. 26, when Plante, then with the Barons' parent team, the Edmonton Oilers, took a vicious shoulder-to-shoulder check against the boards from the Vancouver Canucks' Dale Weise. Plante was sidelined 13 games to recover from a wallop so severe that it was an ESPN highlight and the subject of debate about whether Weise should be suspended.
The Oilers would return Plante to Oklahoma City, and he was back in the lineup Jan. 27. He played five more games, the last on Feb. 9 against the Abbotsford Heat in the Cox Center. Plante, never afraid of a good scrap, took on Abbotsford heavyweight Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. Plante took a few punches, lost his balance and fell, hitting his helmetless head on the ice.
Plante has been a scratch on the Barons' lineup card the last 19 games, including Saturday night's 5-2 victory over Grand Rapids before 5,398 fans at the Cox Center.
“Having concussions so close together, it's something you have to be careful with,” said Plante, a Brandon, Manitoba, native who has adapted well to Oklahoma culture — he wears a yellow cowboy hat and bolo tie when not in uniform on game nights.
With aftereffects of head injuries in sports such a focus nowadays, team physicians and trainers are taking special precautions to anyone who takes a blow to the noggin. Athletes who fail to pass a series of post-concussion tests remain benched.
Plante's teammate, Andrew Lord, suffered a concussion during an exhibition game in October. Lord has not played one regular-season game. Another Barons defenseman, Dan Ringwald, has missed the last 12 games with a concussion.
Plante, who has played in 33 games for OKC this season and three for Edmonton, says he feels fine. He wants to return to the Barons' lineup before the playoffs begin in mid-April. With just nine games remaining in the regular season, Oklahoma City coaches and medical staff might decide to keep the big blue-liner limited to contact practices.
“We're going to run him through some more tests, and we think he's going to pass those. He's feeling pretty good,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “We're looking at him playing next weekend.”
Someone such as Plante, who has been called up by Edmonton four times this season, will be a huge asset as Oklahoma City tries for its first AHL championship in franchise history.
“I'm ready for some contact, which is the next logical step after getting off the bike and just skating,” said Plante, who has 12 points and 72 penalty minutes. “But I'd like to get in some games before the playoffs begin. I really feel fine and feel like I'm ready to go.”
Nelson said Plante will be encouraged to play the same style he always has — someone who is not afraid of contact.
“You can't change the way somebody plays,” Nelson said. “You have to keep playing the way that got you here. Right now, we just want to make sure he's healthy and ready to go.”