Watching games with an empty, helpless feeling is getting pretty old for Cam Atkinson.
On injured reserve since Jan. 27 (and retroactive to Jan. 23) with a lower body injury, the 23-year-old forward is aching to get back in the lineup and help a Blue Jackets offense that has been struggling to score goals.
Before his injury, Atkinson had scored one goal in Columbus' first three games -- a beautiful breakaway goal in the home opener against Detroit -- after scoring 17 goals and 38 points in 33 games with Springfield (AHL). His goal-scoring presence has been missed in recent weeks, but with some patient rehabbing and constant monitoring of his injury, Atkinson is optimistic that he will be back on the ice soon.
Along with two other injured Blue Jackets, John Moore and Adrian Aucoin, Atkinson took part in his first team practice today since the injury. All three hope to be on the Blue Jackets' upcoming road trip to California, but Atkinson in particular has the Feb. 15 game in Los Angeles circled as a potential return date.
"It's been a tough few weeks, that's for sure," Atkinson told BlueJackets.com after today's skate. "In talking with (athletic trainer Mike Vogt) and our management, he wanted me to rest and try to get as close as possible to 100 percent. I know that I'm not going to be there this entire year, but I want to get to a point where I'm near that level and if I tweak it, it doesn't set me back.
"I definitely felt great today and great yesterday, and it was awesome to be back out there with the boys."
As someone looked to as a key member of the Blue Jackets' offense, and particularly on the power play, watching from the press box in a suit and tie is the last thing in the world Atkinson wants to be doing.
But it's no reason to rush back before he's ready, he said, and he's committed to improving and evaluating his progress every time he skates. The results have been positive in his last few sessions on the ice and he's confident that he's on the right track.
"With this injury, it has been and will be a day-to-day process," Atkinson said. "It's going to be nagging me along the way but it's about mental toughness and prepare yourself before and after games and practices.
"It's probably the worst feeling, knowing that you can help the boys and contribute offensively. But I'm excited and preparing to get back out there as soon as possible and I can't wait for when I do."