A rare afternoon practice brought the entire Ducks roster back to Honda Center from the All-Star break, including Ryan Getzlaf
|“It felt good to be back out there with the guys again and get skating a little bit,” Getzlaf said. “I didn’t get to participate in everything, but it was still a lot better than being out there by myself.” |
Anaheim’s captain, who has been out of action since suffering nasal fractures on Dec. 28 at Phoenix, skated with the club for the first time since sustaining the injury. Though still not cleared for contact, Getzlaf’s participation in some of the drills on Monday was an important first step in his impending return to the lineup.
“It felt good to be back out there with the guys again and get skating a little bit,” said Getzlaf, who had 37 points in 40 games before getting hurt. “I didn’t get to participate in everything, but it was still a lot better than being out there by myself.”
Along with a sizeable scar on his forehead, another new addition for Getzlaf was a visor to his helmet. With the one exception of junior hockey, he has not played with a visor in any other stop of his career. He’s hoping the adjustment is a smooth one. “That was one of the stipulations of me coming back earlier is I need to have protection right off the hop,” he said.
“It’s hard and different for me, but if it means I can get out there earlier, then I’ll do it. We’ll see how it goes. If I can keep it on and play well, then I’ll keep it on.”
The 25-year-old and two-time All-Star feels fortunate to even be in this position, where a return is imminent. When Shane Doan of the Coyotes fired a shot in the second period of that game at Jobing.com Arena, the puck deflected off Cam Fowler
’s stick and straight onto Getzlaf’s forehead. From there, a number of scenarios worse than his eventual outcome were possible.
|“It was pretty clear how close it was to being some serious damage," Getzlaf said. "I’m lucky and happy to deal with what I did, as opposed to what it could have been. It was just the fractures and I’ll be ready to go in a couple of weeks.” |
“The first few days were pretty scary for me and my family,” he said. “It was at the point where they didn’t know if there was spinal fluid leaking and other stuff that surrounds your brain. But after a couple of CT scans, we knew we were in the clear in that aspect of it – the brain portion and the long-term effects.
“It was pretty clear how close it was to being some serious damage. I’m lucky and happy to deal with what I did, as opposed to what it could have been. It was just the fractures and I’ll be ready to go in a couple of weeks.”
Losing a player like Getzlaf, who has averaged 58 assists and 80 points over the last three seasons, can cause severe harm to any team’s playoff chances. Anaheim could have easily been at the wrong end of a tightly-packed Western Conference, where a mere nine points separates the 4th and 14thplace clubs.
The Ducks did the opposite and grouped together to find success during that span, winning 10 out of the 13 games Getzlaf was out before the All-Star break. The club will return to action on Wednesday against the rival Sharks with 60 points (28-20-4 record) and in playoff position.
|“Fortunately enough, we’ve had a group in here that has been able to step up and play well," Getzlaf said. "It’s been a pleasure to watch, knowing your teammates are stepping in for you and allowing me to heal properly and get back when I can.” |
“Other people have stepped into larger roles.” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “I don’t think you can say that Saku Koivu
hasn’t filled into that center ice position, with his line of Teemu and Jason Blake
. They have come in and played some quality minutes for us. We’ve played them head-to-head against some of the better lines in the league. They have done their fair share of damage. Our power play has been cooking along here in the last little while. That has really given us a boost.”
Having to be on the sidelines as a spectator for more than a month now, Getzlaf has been more than happy with how his teammates have fared in his absence. “That is one of the hardest things when you are out the lineup and your team is struggling,” he said. “Fortunately enough, we’ve had a group in here that has been able to step up and play well. It’s been a pleasure to watch, knowing your teammates are stepping in for you and allowing me to heal properly and get back when I can.”
He and the Ducks medical team are targeting Feb. 9 at Vancouver as a possible return. If that holds up, Anaheim is down to just two more games (this Wednesday and Saturday at Colorado) without one of its top players. “We got a CT scan the other day and the fractures weren’t quite healed,” Getzlaf said. “The doctors aren’t going to be put me in any position where a little blow to the head or bump on the glass is going to put me back at square one.
“Hopefully, if I can manage to sit out those two games and have that full two weeks off, I should be 100 percent and my fractures should be completely healed.”Notes:
Aaron Voros (fractured orbital bone) was taken off injured reserve and will be available when the Ducks play San Jose on Wednesday. The 6-4 forward was hurt in a Dec. 8 game at Vancouver and has missed the last 21 games.