ARLINGTON, Va. -- Count teammate Jason Chimera among the people who were surprised when what appeared to be an injury from a simple collision for Dennis Wideman in late March turned into a much more serious problem in the hours and days that followed.
Wideman left the Washington Capitals game March 29 after colliding with Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu with a leg injury. He ended up spending nearly two weeks in a local hospital with a hematoma and compartment syndrome.
"We didn't know [how severe it was], either," Chimera said. "It was one of those things where he had a charley horse, and then you find out he's in the hospital and you're kind of taken back. It's good to see him skating. He's way ahead of schedule. As a hockey player, [the hospital is] not a place you want to be, that's for sure."
Wideman skated before practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in a team-issue track suit -- something he's been doing with regularity for the past two weeks. When he might return to the lineup remains in question.
"They haven't said anything to me," Wideman said when asked about a timetable. "I'm just going it as kind of a day-by-day thing. Like I said, it's getting better. Hopefully before the end of next week I'll be out practicing with the guys.
"It was just a pretty bad injury that kind of got worse. And now every day I'm in the gym and stretching it and trying to get back. Like I said, it's getting close, it's getting better every day and it's starting to look promising."
Wideman was acquired by Washington at the trade deadline from Florida and instantly became a big-minute member of the team's depleted defense corps. The Capitals were missing their top two defensemen from the past few seasons at the time, Mike Green and Tom Poti, and Wideman quickly earned the trust of his new coach Bruce Boudreau.
He played more than 22 minutes in each of his first 13 games for Washington, including at least 25 in six of them. Moving from one of the worst teams in the League to a Stanley Cup contender was an exciting turn of events for Wideman, but then he ended up dealing with the first serious injury of his career.
"I haven't had something like this, so it gets frustrating," Wideman said. "But on the same end it is getting better. So that makes it a little easier coming in every day when I am progressing."
He deemed his time in a local hospital "boring." Wideman was instructed by a team representative not to say if he went to the hospital after the Carolina game or in the following days, but he did say there was no way for him to rehab the injury while there.
"Yeah, it was long days," Wideman said. "There wasn't much I could do in there so I was just kind of sitting around playing video games and watching TV."
Boudreau said earlier this month that Wideman was progressing faster than anticipated and could even play near the end of the first round if the series went long. That looks unlikely at this point, but Wideman said he was always confident that his season was not over and if does indeed gain clearance for practice by next week a return in the second round is not out of the question.
For now he has to sit and watch his teammates, who will try to close out the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round series Saturday at Verizon Center.
"It's not fun watching games, let alone playoff games," Wideman said. "When I came here I was excited and ready to get going and try to help the team, but they're playing well and doing great. It'd be a lot tougher if we were down.
"It's nerve-wracking. I'm sitting at home watching on TV and it's not fun. I'd much rather be on the ice helping."