Injured in spring, now healthy NHL stars embrace 2nd chances

Injured in spring, now healthy NHL stars embrace 2nd chances

Injured in spring, now healthy NHL stars embrace 2nd chances

Seth Jones stood on his surgically repaired right ankle as his Blue Jackets teammates practiced and played without him. That took its toll.

“It gets mentally draining,” Jones said.

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos and Pittsburgh All-Star Jake Guentzel know the feeling.

Like Jones, they were injured late in the NHL season and would have missed part or all of the playoffs had they started in April. Instead, the four-month pandemic shutdown has given them a second chance for them to heal up in time for the rescheduled battle for the Stanley Cup.

“I probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said Stamkos, who underwent core muscle surgery in early March. “You never want to see what’s gone in the world. But from a hockey perspective it gave me a chance to get as healthy as possible and be ready for Game 1. For me personally from a hockey perspective, that was great.”

Being ready for Game 1 under normal circumstances — if Columbus held on to make the playoffs without him — would have been a struggle for Jones. That was the eight-week mark since surgery, with a 8-10 week recovery timeline.

“I really didn’t start feeling back to myself on the ice until about week 13 to 15,” Jones said. “The extra time obviously did pretty good for me.”

The 25-year-old called the situation “a little bit of a blessing in disguise.” Captain Nick Foligno knows having Jones is huge for the Blue Jackets against the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs in the best-of-five qualifying round.

“It would’ve been a lot different had we been playing the playoffs with him on probably one leg,” Foligno said. “To know that he’s feeling good and excited about his opportunity to be able to play at full health I think is a huge boost for our club and something that we don’t want to waste.”

Having Guentzel back is a boost for the Penguins, who open their series against the Montreal Canadiens when the playoffs begin Saturday. The 25-year-old thought his season was over after undergoing right shoulder surgery in late December that carried a 4-6 month recovery time.

Seven months later, he’s good to go.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, so to get this opportunity, I’m pretty happy about it — to get a chance to battle with these guys and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Guentzel said. “From my end, I’m pretty happy that I get this chance to do this.”

Some may still not get the chance.

Carolina defenceman Dougie Hamilton recovered from a broken left leg but has been absent from several recent practices, and his status is in doubt. Teammate Brett Pesce and Columbus forward Josh Anderson would each need his team to advance to at least the conference final to be ready after shoulder surgery.

“Who knows what’s going to happen,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said.

Stamkos knew what to expect from his history of injuries. He felt good skating in a small group with no contact, then “hit a little rut” that caused him to miss the start of training camp and is now on pace to return during round-robin play next week.

“Chalk it up to the ups and downs of going through a rehab,” Stamkos said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

To go far, the Lightning could use a healthy Stamkos filling the net on the power play and leading a deep, talented lineup. Coach Jon Cooper knows Stamkos might take a few games to get his timing back, then he’ll be able to contribute in the way he likely couldn’t have in the spring.

“That’s what we’re looking for him to do: to compete, to lead as our captain, to score when he can and be the responsible player that he’s grown into as the years have gone on,” Cooper said. “He has a big role on our team.”

___

AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed.

___

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Community Christmas Eve Dinner cancelled

The 20th anniversary of the Community Christmas Eve dinner is cancelled amidst COVID-19 concerns

The consensus around the Sylvan Lake council chamber Wednesday was the town does not have the ability to properly enforce a proposed mandatory indoor mask bylaw. File Photo
Sylvan Lake town council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake RCMP are looking for the identity of the suspect who stole from over 40 resident mail boxes. (Photo Courtesy of Sylvan Lake RCMP)
Over 40 mailboxes broken into at Sylvan Lake apartment building

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating the incident and searching for the identity of the suspect

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read