Tag: recovery

James Reimer

Reimer practices, still at least a week away

The slumping Maple Leafs have to be looking for any good news they can find right now. Well, the good news is their promising young goaltender James Reimer was able to practice during an optional skate today. He may not be ready to return yet, but at least he’s back on the ice. Any progress is a good thing, right?

The Leafs still aren’t officially saying what’s ailing Reimer, but they previously said he was suffering concussion-like symptoms. If we assume those are the same problems he’s dealing with, then we know that any timetable for a possible return can be termed as “tentative” at best. Still, Ron Wilson gave fans a ballpark update to work with today.

“He won’t be playing for at least another week to 10 days if everything goes smoothly,” Toronto’s head coach said.

Again, hockey fans have come to learn that anything resembling concussion-like symptoms can take a while to recover from these days. Yet whenever Reimer is ready to return to the ice, the Leafs will welcome the netminder back to the lineup with open arms. After a quick start out of the gate, the Leafs have lost their last six games (0-4-2) and have been giving up a ton of goals in the process. Some will say it’s the defense taking a step back, but Reimer’s stellar play has a way of making any defensive corps look a little better. All we know is they’re losing and giving up a lot of goals in the process.

In the meantime, the Leafs will have a busy week without their prized goaltender. Will they be able to keep their heads above water as he recovers? They’ll have to figure out how to earn a few wins if they want that playoff berth in April.

Bertuzzi hopes to be back in lineup on Saturday

Flyers Red Wings Hockey

Todd Bertuzzi participated in a full practice this afternoon for the first time since he was sidelined with dizziness and swelling in his ear six games ago. Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said that Bertuzzi’s status will be determined before tomorrow’s game, but the big forward is cautiously optimistic.

“I didn’t come all the way here without thinking there was a chance (he could play),” Bertuzzi told Ansar Khan at mlive.com. “I’ve had three pretty good days in. Got to see how I feel after my workout and see how I feel in the morning.”

The Wings have been a mixed bag since Bertuzzi was sidelined six games ago. The initial returns were good when the Wings rattled off four wins in the first four games without the polarizing forward. But since then, they’ve lost two straight and looked awful in San Jose on Thursday night. Bertuzzi hopes he can get into the lineup and help turn things around at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon against the Kings.

Detroit could use a boost since they have hit an offensive lull as of late. They’ve scored two or fewer goals in their last three games and have looked like a different team since they exploded for five goals against the Avalanche and Ducks two weeks ago.

Perhaps a healthy Bertuzzi is just what the doctor ordered.

Shocker: Martin Havlat to miss opening night

Toronto Maple Leafs v Minnesota Wild

Some players just have reputations of being injury prone. If you were to ask hockey fans about a player who has been known to miss a few games, it wouldn’t take long before you found someone who would mention Martin Havlat’s name. Unfortunately, this news isn’t going to help.

According to Pierre LeBrun, Havlat will miss the Sharks opening game against the Phoenix Coyotes. The newly acquired winger’s shoulder will prevent him from making his season debut in front of the raucous, opening night crowd at the Tank. Havlat may only end up missing a single game due to the Sharks early schedule though. After starting the season at home on Saturday, they have to wait until Friday, October 14th before their second game of the season in Anaheim. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious and the team is hoping to have him back without missing significant time.

Earlier this afternoon, San Jose Mercury News beat reporter David Pollak spoke to Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan. His comment was simple and straight to the point: “If his doctor says he needs a little more time, we can live with that.” According to LeBrun, he’ll need a little more time.

Havlat has the reputation of being one of the most injured players in recent memory—but it’s a reputation that he’s been working to shed over the last three seasons. Following the lockout, Havlat was a groin/hamstring injury just waiting to happen. He averaged only 36 games per season between 2005-2008. Within the stretch, he only played 18 games in the first year after the lockout; the season happened to be his last with the Ottawa Senators as well. His injuries overshadowed that he was almost a point-per-game player over the same stretch.

But that was then. Over the last three seasons, he’s been on the ice for significantly more action than the previous three years. During his last season in Chicago and two campaigns in Minnesota, Havlat averaged 77 games per season. Sure, missing 5 games per season isn’t going to remind anyone of Cal Ripken or Brett Favre—but he’s hardly the alone in the trainer’s room.

Besides, if he only misses opening night, he can still tie his career high with 81 games played this season. The last time he played 81 games, he racked up 29 goals and 77 points en route to a trip to the Western Conference final with the Blackhawks. After two consecutive trips to the conference finals, the Sharks are hoping that Havlat can help the team get over the hump and make their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history.

From the team’s point of view, they plan on letting Havlat’s shoulder heal at its own pace. It’s a long season with extremely high expectations. From that perspective, there’s no reason to rush Havlat back to the ice before he’s fully healthy. Hopefully for fans in San Jose, he was just bitten by the injury bug a little earlier this season.

Jonas Hiller’s long road from cloudy unknown to world-class netminder

Jonas Hiller
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The 2010-11 season was shaping up to be a dream season for Jonas Hiller. He was in the midst of a career year with a .926 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average going into the all-star break. It would be his first career all-star appearance—the only goaltender in the Western Conference to earn the honor in 2011. The sky was the limit.

Then it all faded to black. Actually, that’s not true. It was then that the room started spinning out of control.

It was during that fateful weekend in January where Hiller’s dream season turned into a mystifying nightmare. At some point, something had happened to the Swiss netminder that doctors, coaches, and even Hiller couldn’t explain. The official word from the Ducks was “vertigo-like symptoms,” which basically means the goaltender’s world was spinning and no one knew why.

Six months later he said he was better. Then the Ducks said he was clear to play. With the great news of the offseason and Hiller stepping up in training camp, some of the details of Hiller’s bout with vertigo are starting to come to light. It’s long been thought that something happened during the All-Star weekend to Hiller, but it was mostly hearsay. In fact, he played in two more games after the All-Star break before the Ducks put him on injured reserve. Still, there’s no doubt that the man who returned from Raleigh wasn’t the same, all-world goaltender who was the only Western Conference goaltender that earned a trip to the all-star game.

Ducks legend Teemu Selanne shared with Pro Hockey Talk that there was something wrong with Hiller from the moment he returned. Something very wrong.

“I saw it right away,” Selanne admitted. “I think I was one of the first guys that saw him after the all-star break—the first practice, the first one he was so lazy out there. He was sitting on his stall [for an] hour, just looking in one spot. I said, ‘God, there’s something wrong with this guy.’ Then he tried to play, he couldn’t focus. It was obviously tough because up to that point, I think he was the best goalie in the league. That’s what it takes to win in this league these days. When the goalie is struggling, that’s a bad sign.”

The most frustrating part for Hiller and the Ducks was the unknown. After appearing in two games after the symptoms appeared – he was pulled after giving three goals in 11 minutes in the first game – the Ducks shut him down while they tried to figure out what was wrong with their prized netminder. At the end of March, the organization gave him another shot to get back to the ice to see where he stood. The news wasn’t good.

After giving up three goals on nine shots in an important game in Nashville, Hiller was returned to the bench while Ray Emery and Dan Ellis held down the goaltending duties. Hiller battled throughout the stretch run (and eventually the playoffs) to return to the crease, but it wasn’t to be. Bobby Ryan got an up-close and personal look at the Swiss netminder:

“You could see it in his eyes. He was battling a little bit. I think I noticed it the most in the playoffs, having some suspension time and getting to skate with him a little more then and work with him one on one.”

He was eventually shut down for the rest of the season.

That brings us back to today. Watching him stone teammates in practice, you’d never know that he was the guy who missed the last two months of last season. In his first game back, Hiller stopped 21 of 22 shots against the Vancouver Canucks and earned the #1 star of the game. When Selanne talks about Hiller’s performance in Vancouver, his tone noticeably changes for the better. Then again, he also shares that he wasn’t so sure how his goaltender would react to a live-game situation:

“He was outstanding in that game. You know, before that, you never know how the guy is going to be before he starts playing games. Obviously, it’s a totally different situation when you have the pressure of the games bring on you. It was great relief for everybody to see him doing well—he played so well.

“It’s funny,” Selanne continued. “A couple days in practice when the team went to LA, we were doing the shootouts and shooting the pucks and he was almost like a wall. We thought he was better than ever! So that’s great. We all know how important goaltending is these days. When the goalie gives you a chance to win every night, that’s huge.”

Around the league, organizations are looking to find new players in training camp to add to their respective teams to improve their team. But in Anaheim, the best “new” player may end up being that familiar face who was battling the unknown for the last six months of his life. Not many teams can claim they added a world-class goaltender to a team that already made a playoff run at the end of last season.

Look out Western Conference: the Hiller of old looks like he’s back.

Dennis Wideman eager to play after suffering hematoma

Chicago Blackhawks v Washington Capitals

Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman skated with in an informal practice with teammates on Friday. The workout marked the first time he’s been able to skate with the team since he was injured at the end of last season. He suffered a hematoma in the final weeks of the regular season—an injury that is finally in his rearview mirror.

So what in the world is a hematoma?

A hematoma is when there’s blood in a soft tissue space—like a muscle. It’s caused “by a break in the wall of a blood vessel.” For Wideman, he experienced a break in the wall of his blood vessel when Ruutu’s knee made contact with his thigh in a March 29th game. That’s all it took to prematurely end his season. It’s taken longer than Wideman would have liked, but he’s finally feeling like he’s ready to go for the 2011-12 season.

Katie Carrera caught up with Wideman after the workout:

“I’m 100 percent as far as skating and everything goes. I’m 100 percent. There’s still a little bit to catch up on, in just getting the response that you’d like to see out of your leg but I’m pretty close. I’m able to play and everything — I’m just pretty close to exactly where I’d want to be at this time.”

It would be nice for Wideman to make fewer headlines this season. Since playing the 2009-10 season with the Boston Bruins, the Capitals are his third team in a little more than a year. The Panthers acquired him last offseason—only to trade him at the deadline to the Washington Capitals for a pick and prospect. The Caps hoped he would be able to add some offense from the point down the stretch of the regular season (and even the playoffs), but he only managed to play in 14 games before he was lost for the year. Still, in his 14 games with his new club, he scored a goal and 6 assists showing signs of the offensive defenseman GM George McPhee hoped he had acquired.

The Caps will hope he can continue the success from last season that saw him net 10 goals and 40 points in 75 total games. When healthy, he’s shown that he’s the type of defenseman that can net double-digit goals in the NHL. However, he’s also shown that he can look like a forward trying to play defense in his own zone as well. The Capitals were willing to take the good with the bad at the deadline last season—there’s no reason to think anything has changed.

Wideman enters the season in the last year of his 4-year contract that pays him almost $4 million per season. He’s the second highest paid blueliner on the Caps—a team that has as many as eight NHL defensemen on their roster. They’ll still have seven NHL bodies for six roster spots even if Tom Poti is unable to come back. The luxury of having such a deep defensive corps is that Washington will be able to put Wideman into a position to succeed. He won’t be asked to do the heavy lifting; but he will be asked to help create offense from the backend.

As long as he can avoid Tuomo Ruutu’s knee, he should fit nicely on the Caps blueline next season.