Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun is reporting that Canucks winger Mason Raymond, who hasn’t been with the team since suffering a broken vertebra in the Stanley Cup final, practiced with his mates for the first time today. MacIntyre noted that Raymond skated with the main group and received a warm cheer upon leading the team in stretches — an understandable response, given what he’s experienced the last few months.
The injury occurred during Game 6 of the final on a hit from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk:
The hit put Raymond in a back brace for six weeks and through months of discomfort and soft tissue problems. Even as late as September, the speedy winger was unsure if he’d be able to play again.
“I’m lucky to be standing here today with arms and legs moving. I’m still having some discomfort with some soft tissue,” Raymond told the Vancouver Sun two months ago. “Whenever you have something in that [spinal] area, you have a serous risk of having additional problems.”
While returning to practice was a major step in Raymond’s recovery, there’s still a ways to go. Vancouver assistant GM Laurence Gilman said Raymond “continues to progress” but that he joined the Canucks on road trip mainly to participate in some team-building exercises (they had their golf tourney at Trump National yesterday in L.A.; I’m assuming today was reserved for trust falls and cooperative puzzle challenges.)
The Calgary Flames might not be officially eliminated from playoff contention, but after Wednesday’s tough loss to the Anaheim Ducks, they could already be in “moral victories” mode.
Call it a moral victory or not, but it doesn’t get much better – or more pleasantly surprising – as the probable return of center Daymond Langkow. There were many who justifiably wondered if he would ever play again after suffering a scary broken vertebra injury last season, yet it’s quite possible that he will play against the Calgary Flames on Friday.
Honestly, if this announcement was made on Friday itself instead of today, there might be reason to chalk it up to an April Fool’s Day prank. That’s how amazing his comeback really is; there’s always the chance that he would have been better off waiting until the 2011-12 season to be safe, but it would be great to see him play again.
Langkow hasn’t played in any games this season, but scored 37 points in 72 games in 2009-10 before suffering that terrible injury. He produced a 65 point campaign in 07-08 and a career-high 77 in 06-07, so the Flames have reason to be patient with him. He also has one year left on his contract. He’ll make $4.5 million next season.
It’s not a guarantee that Langkow will be back tomorrow night, so we’ll let you know if anything changes regarding that game. If he manages to play in Calgary’s final four games this season, it would be a great accomplishment – and a promising sign that he might be able to shoot for a Bill Masterton Trophy*-worthy year in 2011-12.
* This trophy is traditionally given to a player who overcame a personal tragedy or jarring injury to produce a great season, even if that might not be its technical definition.