Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson recently spoke about how Marian Gaborik's broken collarbone had him in tears shortly after it happened Dec. 21 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gaborik, who has missed the 23 games since then, has worked tirelessly to get back in the Blue Jackets lineup and was very close to representing his native Slovakia in Sochi. He rejoined the team for light skates before the Olympic break and traveled on the Jackets' trip to California, but was still waiting for medical clearance.
After a meeting with the team's medical staff yesterday and an X-ray review, Gaborik got that clearance today and was on the ice sans "no contact" jersey this afternoon. Gaborik said the X-ray showed noticeable improvement from just prior to the Olympics, and he feels close to 100 percent just shy of eight weeks post-injury.
"I'm going to work into practice and work into battles, and hopefully jump into games soon," Gaborik said after an hour-long practice today at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. "Considering I couldn't play, I had a chance to work on some things and rehab and strengthen stuff...it helped.
"I could see that it's healing like it should, and it looked different to me as well and I'm not an expert. Over the break I've been working on strengthening it and stay on top of things. It feels good, and now I'm cleared for contact. It's going to be a big challenge to get myself back into that and then back into games."
Gaborik was holding out hope that he would be cleared in time to join his Slovak teammates in Sochi (would have been his third consecutive Olympic appearance), but despite significant progress in his broken collarbone's recovery, it wasn't quite where it needed to be.
It was extremely disappoint - as one would expect - for Gaborik, but he quickly put it in the past and focused on being ready for the Blue Jackets' return on Feb. 27 in New Jersey. As things currently stand, Gaborik plans to be in the lineup that night.
"I should be (ready)," Gaborik said. "It's a matter of feeling good and not being sore, and feeling strong and confident that I can go into battles at 100 percent and not be scared. I have time to work on those things in these upcoming eight days.
"I'm not going to go in there and bang right away in the first practice. I'll try to work myself into contact and progress, and hopefully it's going to feel good. I need to gain confidence in it and feel good about it, and I believe (that's going to happen)."