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Light at the end of the tunnel

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD - The long waiting line at the Habs infirmary seems to grow with each coming game; fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel.

On March 10, 2016, in the third period of a Thursday night contest between the Habs and Sabres, Canadiens All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban collided awkwardly with fellow blue-liner Alexei Emelin. The sold out crowd at the Bell Centre held its collective breath as Subban thrashed in pain before lying almost motionless in the aftermath of the dangerous impact.

“It was scary. I’ve always been taught not to stay down on the ice, but whenever you start feeling weird sensations in your extremities, it can be scary. Once Graham [Rynbend] came out I knew it was best to just stay down and play it safe. We’ve had similar experiences at the Bell Centre before, but our medical staff always handles it professionally. They came to my aid and I know my parents were very appreciative,” expressed Subban, who had high praises for team’s medical staff who took every precaution when carefully setting up a stretcher to help transport the 26-year-old to the Montreal General Hospital. “Since it was my neck, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure I could move my hands and feet, that way if my parents or family was watching they would know I was ok. It was a scary situation but the important thing is that there is no structural damage.”

Thankfully, Subban - who presently ranks 2nd on the Habs in scoring with 51 points, despite being sidelined for the last six games due to the non-serious neck injury sustained that frightful night – has been progressing well and is nearing his return to the lineup.

Just one day after suiting up in non-contact jerseys at Tuesday’s practice, the former Norris Trophy winner was back to being a full participant in Wednesday’s practice at the Bell Sports Complex, swapping his light-blue no-contact sweater for a standard Canadiens practice jersey.

“Right now my focus is on getting back in the lineup. However, in my situation I just have to listen to the doctors. Right now I’m just taking it day by day. I’m still experiencing some symptoms related to the injury, and I’m not going to comeback unless I’m at 100%,” continued the former 2007 second round draft pick, who is not ready to suit up for Thursday night’s contest in Detroit, but will travel and practice with his teammates on the road. “We have the best training staff in the world. I trust those guys completely. So when they feel that I am ready to get back in and play, we will go from there. They also take into consideration how I am feeling, but I trust our doctors.”

While keeping the Habs workhorse on the sidelines was only logical, Subban’s remarkable iron-man streak was snapped at a 274 consecutive games after the rearguard was forced to miss the Habs game against the Senators just two days after he was cleared to leave the hospital.

“It meant a lot to me to be able to play six years in this league without missing any games due to injury. If I had to choose a way to miss a game, that’s exactly how I would want to go out; an accidental collision rather than getting run over by an opponent,” acknowledged Subban, who was forced to sit out his very first game since January 30, 2013, which was also against the Ottawa Senators. “This is the first time that I’ve ever been out of the lineup due to injury, so I keep getting more and more anxious to return. Hopefully once I get back in the lineup, I can start on a new iron-man streak.”

While Subban's status is up in the air for Thursday night's affair, another member of the Canadiens walking wounded is closing in on making his return to the lineup against the Red Wings. Centre David Desharnais, who has been shelved since February 15 thanks to a broken bone in his foot, was also a full participant at Wednesday morning’s practice in Brossard.

“I knew right away that it was broken. But I feel better now. With a fracture, you never know how much time it will take to heal. The first time I stepped on the ice, everything seemed fine. However, after a while I started to experience a bit of pain and discomfort and had to take another week to recover. But here I am ready to start again. I might potentially be able to make my return to the lineup in Detroit,” clarified Desharnais, who presently sits just four games shy of reaching the 400-game plateau.

“I’m excited to get back into the lineup and help my teammates. There are still eight games left to play, that's what I’m focused on right now. It definitely felt great to be back out with the guys for practice today. It hasn’t been an easy year for anyone, but it is encouraging to see the young guys stepping up. That’s just how hockey works. When I first arrived I needed to compete against the veterans to earn a spot. I’ve been in their shoes before.”

You would think a trip to the hospital would be enough to make even the toughest hockey players want some time off to relax, but as Desharnais says it best; “I'm a hockey player, and hockey players just want to play.”

Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com

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