MONTREAL — Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said the NHL's new protocol to assess a player's ability to play after a head shot "is a concern" because it could put the decision into the hands of the opponent.
The protocol, which went into effect Wednesday, says players receiving head shots must be removed from the bench, evaluated and cleared by a doctor before they can return to the game.
The problem, Yzerman said, is very few teams travel with a team physician. That leaves the decision in the hands of the home team's doctor. "He's going to err on the side of caution," Yzerman said. "They have to protect themselves."
Yzerman said the Lightning will have an athletic trainer observe the evaluation, but ultimately, whether a player plays or sits is the doctor's call.
"These doctors are professionals," Yzerman said. "I trust their integrity. Until I see it become an issue, I'm going to give the process an opportunity to work."
The easy solution, Yzerman said, is travel with a team doctor. "That's definitely something we're going to discuss," he said, but "Doctors also have day jobs. It's tough for them to go on a seven- or eight-game road trip."
WELCOME BACK: D Pavel Kubina played after a three-game suspension for elbowing Chicago's Dave Bolland. "It's been a long week for me," he said. The silver lining was resting a groin strain that is still not healed but better, Kubina said.
STAMKOS: C Steven Stamkos still believes the answer to the head shot/concussion problem is with the players. But he acknowledged they need a push with greater fines and suspensions.
"It just seems like we talk about it and then we go out in a game and you're in those situations and we're doing the same thing, and players are not realizing the impact," Stamkos said.
"There are plays when you have to give guys the benefit of the doubt, where they didn't mean to do it and it happened fast. But for the most part, guys are realizing what they're doing out there. We need to make a change because this year we thought we were going to prevent it at the beginning of the year with some of the changes. But it's been worse. It's scary."
WELCOME BACK II: D Marc-Andre Bergeron, who played last season for the Canadiens, played at the Bell Centre for the first time since he was not re-signed. "I'm sure I'll be nervous," he said before the game, "but nothing I haven't faced before."
As for being shifted from the top power-play unit to the second, Bergeron said: "I like to shoot. That's my best asset. I'm trying to get in position to use it. It doesn't matter who I'm playing with."
RETURNING: RW Steve Downie (ankle/knee) should be ready by the end of next week, coach Guy Boucher said. W Ryan Malone (stomach) is on track for April.
ODDS AND ENDS: Minor-league C Mitch Fadden cleared waivers, and his contract was terminated because of what Yzerman previously said were off-ice issues. … Montreal's Roman Hamrlik, the Lightning's first draft pick, No. 1 overall in 1992, played his 1,300th game. … The Canadiens have sold out 285 straight home games. The last nonsellout was Jan. 8, 2004, against Tampa Bay. … C Blair Jones was scratched.