Elias Lindholm says he suffered his first career concussion this season, calling it a scary thing.
The Carolina Hurricanes forward wasn’t sure how long the effects would last. He didn’t know how many games he might miss.
Lindholm, 22, said he fell into the boards in the Dec. 28 road game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and felt a “little beat up” but didn’t believe it was anything serious. He scored a goal in that game, and again two days later against the Chicago Blackhawks, when he had five shots.
“But I felt a little dizzy and stuff like that,” he said of the Chicago game.
Placed on injured reserve by the Canes, Lindholm could do little but rest, waiting for the symptoms to abate. Goalie Eddie Lack had a concussion in November and his symptoms lingered for months.
“That was tough because I’d never had one before,” Lindholm said Thursday. “It felt weird. It’s tough just lying at home, doing nothing, freaking out, not talking to anyone. It was tough, but I got through it.”
Lindholm would miss five games, being activated off injured reserve on Jan. 10. He has a goal and 11 assists in the 12 games since his return, and his line with center Jordan Staal and rookie Sebastian Aho has been the Canes’ most consistent and effective.
“I’ve been with them for a while now, and it’s been fun,” Lindholm said. “Obviously it has really helped to get my confidence higher and higher. I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable out there making plays.”
Against the New York Islanders on Saturday, Lindholm set up defenseman Ron Hainsey for his first goal of the game with a pass that was so precise, so perfectly timed that it almost startled Hainsey when the puck arrived on his tape in the slot.
“I think I have pretty good vision and see the ice pretty good, but earlier in the season maybe I wouldn’t have passed or seen Ronnie in that spot,” Lindholm said. “Now, with good confidence, I can make those plays.”
When the points weren’t coming for Lindholm, Canes coach Bill Peters was quick to note the smart, gritty plays the Swede was contributing and the physical edge he brought to the games. Listed at 6-1 and 192 pounds, Lindholm doesn’t deliver the kind of hits that make fans sit up straight in their seats but is rugged along the boards and around the net and hasn’t eased up any since the concussion.
“Growing up watching Peter Forsberg, everyone wants to be him and play like he played the game,” Lindholm said of the former Colorado Avalanche star from Sweden. “He had an impact on my game.”
The Canes drafted Lindholm as a centerman with the fifth overall pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Used at center early this season, he’s back on the wing but often is called on for faceoffs and has won 52.6 percent of his draws. He’s on the power play, used to kill penalties.
“Lindy has excellent hockey sense,” Aho said. “He sees the whole ice, and he’s a very good skater and a strong player. I like playing with him. He makes the right decisions all the time.”
The Canes are 13-2-0 this season when Lindholm has an assist in the game. The one thing lacking has been goal-scoring — he had 17 goals two years ago and dipped to 11 last season, and has five in 42 games this season.
“Obviously I’ve got to get some goals but as long as I help my team win, I don’t worry about that too much,” Lindholm said.
Peters called Lindholm an underrated player, which may seem odd in talking about the fifth pick of a draft.
“All that draft status does is get you a little bit of money when you sign and gives you an opportunity within an organization,” Peters said. “Then it’s all about hard work and earning your keep.
“He’s coming into his own. He’s still a young player, and he’s figuring out the league, figuring out what he has to do to be successful. He plays hard each and every night.”