BROSSARD – Max Pacioretty might not be ready to return to active duty just yet, but the sniper is certainly in good spirits with the start of the postseason just two days away.
On Monday, Pacioretty skated alongside his teammates at the Bell Sports Complex for the very first time since sustaining an upper-body injury back on April 5 in South Florida. After missing the last two games of the regular season, the New Canaan, CT native spent the past few days skating on his own on the South Shore, readying himself to rejoin the rest of the group ahead of the start of the Canadiens’ Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
“I’m following a plan right now. We’ve had a plan in place since Day 1. We’re right on schedule. I don’t know how it’s going to react going forward or what not. I haven’t tested it completely yet. I haven’t gotten hit or anything, but I feel good up to this point and I feel confident,” offered Pacioretty, who received plenty of media attention following Monday’s on-ice session. “It feels great to be back out there with the guys. I’ve only been out for a week or so, but you miss it. You sit at home watching the games and you say to yourself – ‘This sucks. I want to be with my buddies. I want to be with my teammates.’ I know there’s a bit of a ways to go, but I’m hoping to overcome it as soon as possible.”
And, like Pacioretty said, the next step in that recovery process will be to see how his body responds to contact. When he’ll formally be cleared for contact, however, is anybody’s guess.
“Before playing a game, you try and practice with the team, full contact. Today was a special teams practice, so it was perfect timing to get back out there. I still have to be cleared for contact. That’s the next step,” explained Pacioretty, who was featured on the Canadiens’ first power play unit with forwards David Desharnais and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau on Monday. “That’s the same with every injury. You could feel great skating around, but as soon as you start battling it doesn’t feel as good and you re-aggravate it. I’m headed in the right direction, but I’m still not completely over the hump.”
With that in mind, Pacioretty isn’t about to take any unnecessary risks, especially with so much on the line this time of year. The Canadiens’ No. 67 is hopeful he can suit up against the Senators, but only time will tell.
“I’ve responded really well to treatment. I’ve gotten better every day. I think the stuff that goes on behind the scenes is really what has made me feel a lot better. I’m taking it day by day and I’m feeling better. That’s what’s important,” confided Pacioretty, who has been seen sporting a tinted visor on the ice as of late, a move the 26-year-old jokingly said was simply to look “more flashy” for his friends. “When you’re waiting in Florida, you’re thinking best or worst case possibilities. But, as soon as I got back and saw the doctor, I felt pretty comfortable and I felt confident that hopefully I could come back soon. It’s not something that we’re rushing at all, though.”
Needless to say, Pacioretty’s teammates are hopeful the former University of Michigan standout’s absence isn’t for an extended period of time.
“It was great to see him back out there. He’s a big part of our team. To see him skating, shooting the puck and moving around is a huge relief for us. It was good to see him smiling and having fun with the guys. You never like to see anybody out of the lineup,” offered P.K. Subban, who will be making his fifth trip to the NHL playoffs in 2014-15. “You know Max wants to play and he wants to be involved and be a part of our team’s success. He’s going to be. He’s been a big part of what we’ve accomplished as a team this year, and he’ll be a big part of our team’s success in the future.”
Given Pacioretty’s penchant for defying any and all medical odds, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Canadiens’ leading point-getter four years running dons the CH in postseason play sooner rather than later. He’ll undoubtedly be welcomed back with open arms when he finally does.
“This might’ve been his first practice, but one thing is certain. We’ll take Max back when he’s ready. It might be Wednesday. It might be Friday. It might even be Sunday. We just don’t know when it will be,” mentioned head coach Michel Therrien. “When he does come back, though, he’ll be 100 percent ready to play.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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