MONTREAL - The Canadiens - minus their six Olympians - were back at the Bell Centre on Wednesday. Among them was a hobbling yet determined Jose Theodore, who vowed to return to the lineup in time to end his tumultuous season on a high note.
With the aid of crutches, Theodore carefully made his way to the centre of the Canadiens dressing room to meet the media throng that awaited him. The two-time All-Star then went on to recount how Mother Nature ended up robbing him of the next month or so of NHL action.
"It happened at my home last Thursday night," began Theodore. "I was actually heading outside to pour more salt out on the steps leading up to my front door. Then I slipped and I tried recover, but my foot jammed on the last step with all of my weight behind it.
"At first I was convinced it was my ankle and when the pain wouldn't go away, I picked up the phone and called the doctor at home and he arranged to get some x-rays done."
The result was not a twisted ankle, but rather a broken bone in his right heel that is expected to sideline Theodore for the next six-to-eight weeks. That is, unless, Theodore has something to say about it.
"My goal is to do everything I can to get back on the ice as soon as possible and help us make the playoffs," said Theodore. "I can't really put any weight on it right now, but the plan is to keep icing it and monitor it week-by-week."
Bob Gainey had no explanation for his star goalie's string of bad luck.
"The important thing for Jose right now is for him to focus on what he can do today and move forward from this point," advised Gainey. "We made no secret that our plan during this break in the schedule was to provide Jose with a perfect time to regroup and prepare so he can help us down the stretch in our battle for a playoff spot. This unfortunate accident only means that we will have to now make alternate plans."
Part of those alternate plans took part in his first Canadiens practice in a long while on Wednesday, as Yann Danis was back on the ice following his call-up from Hamilton on Tuesday.
"Yann sent out a strong message to us with his play at the start of the season," said Gainey. "After seeing a lot of playing time in Hamilton, we expect him to be up for the challenge."
As for the additional pressure now resting squarely on the shoulders of Cristobal Huet, Gainey didn't seem overly concerned about his recent workhorse.
"If Cristobal has shown us anything of late, it's that he does not appear capable of even sensing pressure," shrugged Gainey. "He had control of our net heading into the Olympic break and he still has it now. We just need to pick up where we left off before the break and build on that momentum."
The fun begins on Long Island on Tuesday when the Canadiens pay a visit to the Islanders in the first matchup of a six-game road swing.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com