There were moments during Tyler Seguin’s grueling comeback from hip surgery when the six-time All-Star center wondered if he would ever play hockey again.
“I was honestly questioning if I would ever kind of be back to 100%, or be back to even playing hockey,” Seguin said.
Six months and a day after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, during a span when he also had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Seguin was back on the ice for the Dallas Stars on Monday night. He played about twice as long as planned and scored a goal that forced overtime.
“A great reward for the work ethic that he put in. His presence on the ice clearly shows his importance to the team,” coach Rick Bowness said Tuesday, a day after the 5-4 loss at Florida. “A game-tying goal, it gets us a point. It shows how much we’ve missed him the other 51 games.”
Seguin’s return may be too late to help push the defending Western Conference champions back into the playoffs. But it is still a big boost for the 29-year-old center who got hurt during the playoffs last summer inside the NHL’s Canadian bubble. He played through the injury as the Stars made it to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Tampa Bay, though he didn’t have a goal the last 15 games.
The Stars had expected him to play 8-10 minutes in his season debut, but he was on the ice more than 17 minutes. Bowness kept asking how he felt, and Seguin said in the moment with the adrenaline he wasn’t going to pass on playing. His goal in the third period tied the game at 4-4.
“I really do believe that I can get back to 100, and 110%. I couldn’t get back to that season, but with the progress know that the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely there,” Seguin said. “There’s no question by next season I’ll be 110.”
Bowness said Seguin seemed to get through his first game fine physically, and was still skating strong at the end.
Dallas goes into Wednesday night’s game at Tampa Bay four points behind Nashville for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division with four games remaining. The Predators, with three games left, own the tiebreaker with a 5-3 series advantage. All five of those wins over the Stars came after regulation, including 1-0 in OT on Saturday night in Nashville.
Seguin described the lead-up all day to Monday’s game as full of nerves, emotion and excitement. He said he tried not to have too many expectations, and just take things shift by shift, much like the day-by-day approach in the rehab from surgery.
“I felt kind of more comfortable quicker than I thought,” said Seguin, who before this year hadn’t missed a regular-season game since 2015-16. “I really didn’t try to overthink much. I just told myself before the game to rely on instincts.”
And that is exactly how he got his goal. Seguin was open in front of the net when Denis Gurianov’s shot initially flicked off his stick and ricocheted off goalie Spencer Knight’s foot. Seguin knocked the puck over the line with a backhanded swipe, then pumped his fists after falling to the ice before getting up to celebrate with his teammates.
“He wants to be out there as bad as anyone and he wants to help the team win. He left it out there in the bubble, it’s why he had some surgery that had to be done,” Stars goalie Jake Oettinger said. “His impact was felt immediately.”