LAVAL - When Noah Juulsen suffered a fractured foot while blocking a shot during the Canadiens' preseason tilt in Quebec City on September 18, team doctors estimated that he'd be sidelined for approximately six weeks.
More than nine weeks have passed, though, so it would seem that the healing process took a little bit longer than expected. But, the good news is that the defenseman is back at practice with his teammates.
"I feel good. It's good to be back out on the ice with the guys. It's been a while," said the young rearguard following the Laval Rocket's on-ice session on Thursday.
Juulsen even accompanied his teammates to Winnipeg at the beginning of the week, but it's still too early to know exactly when he'll return.
"It's day-to-day. It shouldn't be long. We're hoping that he'll be back next Wednesday, if not next weekend. Or, maybe someone will surprise me with an early Christmas gift," said Rocket head coach Sylvain Lefebvre.
The most important thing in Juulsen's case is not to rush things, of course, especially after he suffered a setback in his recovery.
"It was supposed to be six weeks to start, but the doctors said there was a small setback. He started to skate and we stopped him. Any young player who gets hurt and is forced to miss games, we understand their disappointment. You also have to start training again, and that can be tough, too, both physically and mentally, because you haven't done it in a while. We see that he's continuing to improve and we're excited to get him back," added Lefebvre.
The 20-year-old's injury occurred at a rather inconvenient time because he was impressing the Canadiens' brass at training camp.
"It's tough, for sure. I thought I played well. Injuries happen, so it's a good thing for me that I got that gym time to come back stronger," said Juulsen, who will undoubtedly give the Rocket's defense corps a big boost.
During his absence, the Abbotsford, BC native watched all of his squad's games from the stands.
"I was just visualizing the game from up top and seeing the way different players play, and players from other teams," said Juulsen.
Lefebvre has certainly appreciated Juulsen's attitude while on the sidelines.
"He's a young player who already has pro habits and a good head on his shoulders. He wants to become an NHL player. With his habits - not only at practice, but also away from the rink - he's ahead of the game. I don't want to compare him to other players, but it's fun to watch a youngster who comes in with that type attitude, someone who's disciplined and does things the right way," concluded Lefebvre.
Now, the waiting game continues for Lefebvre to see when his "Christmas gift" will be in uniform again.