By Derek Jory
Dessert with every meal, Chris Higgins is in heaven.
The Vancouver Canucks forward was back on the ice Monday during the team’s morning skate; it was the first time Higgins, who skated on his own over the weekend, has been with his teammates since beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on January 31st.
That night Higgins logged 17:41 of ice time, but he hasn’t played a second since because of a negative reaction he had to medication given to cure the staph infection.
While the Canucks picked up seven of a possible eight points during a four-game road trip dating back to February 4th, Higgins was all but quarantined in his apartment unable to eat most days. He dropped more than 10 pounds and he’s been eating everything in sight since regaining his appetite, to regain as much weight as possible.
“It’s pretty nice to go the other way, that’s for sure,” Higgins said of gaining weight. “I’m enjoying dessert after meals and I don’t have to worry too much about how many calories I’m taking in, that’s the good part of it. Going up in weight is more fun than trying to shed it.”
In all seriousness, Higgins has been through hell of late, a hell not unfamiliar to him. The original staph infection was Higgins’ second of the season and fourth of his career; to the medically declined like myself, a staph infection, according to MedicineNet.com, “is a group of bacteria that can cause a number of diseases as a result of infection of various tissues of the body. Staphylococcus is more familiarly known as Staph (pronounced "staff"). Staph-related illness can range from mild and requiring no treatment to severe and potentially fatal.”
“It was slow going the first couple of days,” explained Higgins, “I was hurting pretty bad and slowly I built myself up and have been skating the last couple of days and starting to eat normal meals again, and the normal number of meals throughout the day. I’m definitely feeling a lot better.”
Higgins won’t suit up for the Canucks when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes Monday night at Rogers Arena, but he said he’ll revaluate where he’s at following Vancouver’s practice Tuesday. He plans to push the envelope and test himself in hopes to getting a passing grade.
When he’s ready to play, he’ll play, said coach Alain Vigneault, and when Higgins does return, he's going to enjoy every minute of it.
“The month of January was pretty tough for my physically, so I’m not going to take any games for granted when I’m feeling good now. I’m going to really enjoy playing the rest of the year and hopefully the energy and weight comes back up quickly because it’s a fun time of the year to be playing.”
Until then, pass the cheesecake.
UPDATES ON BALLARD & WEISE
Keith Ballard was the lone Canuck absent from Monday’s morning skate, he remains out with a mystery ailment that forced him to miss Vancouver’s last two games in Minnesota and Calgary.
Coach Vigneault elaborated on Ballard’s condition as best he could.
“We’re not exactly sure which game during the trip there, but he sort of had a hit which caused a little whiplash, which for some time he was getting some headaches,” said Vigneault. “When he brought it to our attention that was in Minnesota, we didn’t let him play, and we’re not sure if it’s neck related or concussion related. Docs are checking into the neck and if that’s causing the headaches he has now and then, or if it’s as simple as it being a concussion.”
There’s no timeline for Ballard’s return, “He’s out until we figure out exactly what he’s got.”
The news is better for Dale Weise, who also missed the previous two games after blocking a shot against Nashville. He practiced Monday and is getting better, “I think if I were to push it I’d say we could probably use him today, but I won’t push it,” said Vigneault.