Save for a scar on the bridge of Lars Eller's nose, the Montreal Canadiens forward said there are no lingering pains or complications from the devastating hit that ended his season during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators.
Eller sustained a concussion as well as facial and dental fractures after hitting the ice face-first following an open-ice check from Senators defenseman Eric Gryba.
The hit ended Eller's season, and Gryba was suspended two games.
Six months later, Eller told reporters this week at coach Michel Therrien's golf tournament that his recovery was surprisingly quick and he is 100-percent healthy heading into the 2013-14 season.
"I've been training at 100 percent since I was back in the gym a couple of weeks after the season," Eller said. "I'm not behind in terms of that at all. I felt pretty good very quickly after the injury. Of course it was a concern, how long are the [concussion] symptoms going to be there. You don't know. I was lucky that I recovered fast. In a matter of two, three weeks, I was 100-percent healthy and ready to go back in the gym and skate."
Montreal lost its opening-round series to Ottawa in five games, and the injury ended a breakout season for the Danish center. After two seasons of being heavily scrutinized by Canadiens fans after being the key piece in the trade that sent goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues, Eller fulfilled his potential, setting career highs in assists (22) and points (30).
He's looking to build on those numbers in 2013-14.
"I think there is so much to be encouraged about," Eller said. "The way the team played last season, the way things were going. I'm sure we're going to be even better this year. There is so much to look forward to this year."
Eller lauded the Canadiens for how the team rallied around him and supported him following the injury. But there was one Montreal teammate in particular whom he felt particularly was inspirational in his recovery: Max Pacioretty.
The Montreal forward had his own serious injury in 2011 when his head collided with a stanchion along the boards following a hit from Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. Pacioretty also suffered facial injuries and a concussion but returned to action the following season and went on to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.
"I spoke to Max back when it happened. I kind of know what he went through," Eller said. "Of course, he's an inspiration. He had a more severe injury than me, and the way he came back just shows it doesn't have to hurt you in the long term."
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