Two weeks after a puck to the face left Nashville Predators general manager David Poile with a variety of injuries, he was pleased to be back at work Thursday.
The architect behind the U.S. Olympic team was forced to stay home rather than join the Americans at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Now that he's back in the office, Poile said he is happy to see the Predators skating again and overjoyed with the performance of the U.S. men's team, which plays Canada in the semifinals Friday (noon ET, NBCSN, CBC).
The puck to the face while attending Predators practice in Minneapolis, Minn., on Feb. 7 left Poile with a fractured orbital bone and multiple nose fractures. He underwent an additional procedure on his eye last Friday. Poile has no sight in his right eye, but doctors are hopeful he will start to regain it at some point.
"It's been a long two weeks. A really fluky accident up in Minneapolis. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Poile told the Predators website while sporting an eye patch and a considerable amount of medical tape on his nose. "I'm on the mend. Every day is getting a little bit better and I'm trying to feel like my old self again and starting to get excited about when the season resumes and the Predators playoff push resumes. I'm really excited about the Olympics now."
The U.S. Olympic team has given Poile plenty to be excited about. The Americans have yet to lose entering the semifinal and lead all teams with 19 goals in four games. Despite the abrupt cancelation of his trip to Sochi, Poile has been in constant contact with his replacement, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
"I talk to the staff every day. They've kept me up to snuff on everything. We talk before the game and after the game. They've been very good with keeping me in the loop," Poile said. "To this point, the U.S. has clearly been the best team. They're playing well in all areas, from the goaltending to scoring goals. It's fun to watch. I really look forward to the rematch [Friday]."
The Olympics may have been on his mind as he attended Nashville's practice, but Poile also was excited to discuss the play of the Predators, who welcomed injured goaltender Pekka Rinne back to the ice when practice resumed Wednesday. The franchise goaltender has been out since Oct. 22 with a hip infection.
Nashville went 2-2-3 entering the Olympic break and Poile hopes Rinne's return could propel the Predators toward a late-season playoff push.
"We had practice yesterday and the players seemed real excited to me. We brought ourselves within four points of the playoffs, which is the best position we've been in in a long time," Poile said. "We've got Pekka Rinne chomping at the bit to get back in goal. So if he comes back I think we can be in a really good position."
Poile will be watching the Canada-U.S. semifinal in a rematch of the gold-medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He'd love to see the Americans capture gold, but he already believes this U.S. team has made a great contribution to the growth of the game.
"I firmly believe with the U.S. doing this well we're now building new hockey fans all over the United States," he said. "Winning the gold medal, you're going to get some new young guys playing hockey. I really think this is a win-win situation for the United States, both the Olympic team and for USA Hockey."