Dalton Prout had this date circled as he recovered from abdominal surgery over a month ago. It just so happened that everything fell in his favor.
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
He's practically been ahead of schedule for a few weeks now, but Prout said last week he was back to 100 percent and was cleared for contact practice not long after. After a handful of practices to get himself up to speed, he's now poised to return to the lineup tonight against the Minnesota Wild.
It was originally thought that Prout wouldn't be ready until the regular season opener (Oct. 4 against Calgary), but at this point, he is likely to play two of the Blue Jackets' final three preseason games.
"I'm excited to get back in the lineup," Prout said after today's morning skate. "I've seen these guys do it for long enough...I just can't wait to get out there. I feel like I'm to the point right now where I can go out on the ice and not even think about my injury. A couple of weeks ago at the opening of training camp, I'd go out on the ice and wouldn't feel loose until the first five or 10 minutes.
"I'm to the point where I don't even think about it."
Shortly after his surgery, Prout and the team's medical staff sat down and mapped out a plan for his rehabilitation. Then, he began skating on his own and the next step was getting back in the mix at practices. The injury held up strong during some intense practices over the past week and coach Todd Richards said Prout will have no restrictions as he jumps back in the lineup.
And while the target all along was to return tonight, only recently did Prout really start to think it was possible.
"When it first happened, (the doctor) said 4-6 weeks but because I was missing almost a full month of training in the offseason, I thought it'd be closer to six," he said. "I set a goal for myself that today would be the day and it just worked out. I recovered a little quicker and the surgeon did a good job. Everything fell into place and I'm just ready to put it behind me."