Luca Sbisa had seen all the movies, spent enough time at restaurants, hung out on his couch way more than he could have ever wanted. After all this time, he was dying to get back with the guys, to get back playing in front of thousands of people.
The 23-year-old defenseman made his triumphant return Monday night at, of all places, Madison Square Garden. Up until then, Sbisa had missed every game since suffering a high ankle sprain in Anaheim’s first preseason game on September 16, and he endured eight weeks of rehab that recently included two games with the team's AHL affiliate in Norfolk. Last night he returned against the Rangers, and made his presence felt with 18:12 of ice time and an assist on the Ducks’ first goal in a 2-1 victory.
Following an afternoon practice at Honda Center, Sbisa chatted about the long road back to health. When you got hurt in the preseason, did you have an idea you would be out this long?
Not at all. At first, I thought it would be a one- or two-week thing. But I guess if you get a real high ankle sprain, it takes at least six. I realized that pretty quickly. We were hoping it was nothing too severe, but the next day after it happened, we knew it would take way longer than just a couple weeks. At the end of the day, it took like seven or eight. It was pretty frustrating at first, but after awhile, I just had to accept that’s the way it is, and there’s not much you can do. You can’t come back too early because you’ll end up missing more games down the road. Are you still feeling it?
It’s one of those things that will linger, which is not fun. I’ll go through a lot of tape on my left foot. So far it hasn’t been too bad, but if you catch your toe or whatever, you get this really sharp pain that goes away pretty quick. Usually it happens at the start of games where you’re not as warm. It’s usually once a game, and that’s pretty much it.
How did you feel about your play last night?
|"If you have to open up your season on the road, I don’t think there is any better place to do it. Biggest city in the world, the most famous arena in the world, just got renovated. That was fun. It definitely gets you going. I knew I just needed to be physical and get into the game right away. I felt like I hadn’t missed too much time." |
It was good. I think I made the right decision by going down to Norfolk for those two games. I knew I had nothing to lose and a lot of things to gain. You can skate as hard as you want and do all those bag skates, but at the end of the day, it’s always different endurance in games. I went down there and felt good in the first game, better than I thought I would. In the second, it was the second of a back-to-back and I didn’t feel good at all. But I think I got that out of my system and last night I felt pretty good, I have to say. I'm just happy to be back. What grade would you give yourself in that game?
One to ten? [From the next locker, Jonas Hiller cuts in: “Twelve at least.”]. An 11? No, I’m kidding. I don’t really grade myself, but I thought it was good for the first game. You never know how that first game will go, but I think I played pretty simple, pretty solid. I had some situations where I made some good plays, but at the same time I made some plays where I wasn’t happy. That’s just part of me not having played in six months. Overall, I was pretty happy. Was Madison Square Garden a pretty cool place to make your debut?
You’d like to be at home, but if you have to open up your season on the road, I don’t think there is any better place to do it. Biggest city in the world, the most famous arena in the world, just got renovated. That was fun. It definitely gets you going. I’ve played a few games in this league, but that was the first one in a long time and it’s such a big environment there in New York. I got a little nervous, like anxiety and all that stuff. But I think it would be wrong if I didn’t have that. I knew I just needed to be physical and get into the game right away. I felt like I hadn’t missed too much time. I wouldn’t say it’s like riding a bike, but if you keep it simple at first, you get into the rhythm pretty quickly, and that’s what I tried to do.
What was the most frustrating part of being hurt?
|"You can skate as hard as you want and do all those bag skates, but at the end of the day, it’s always different endurance in games. I think I got that out of my system and last night I felt pretty good, I have to say." |
Just being away from the guys. Obviously you’re part of the team, but you just feel different if you’re not out there competing, blocking shots, sacrificing the body. You feel like an outsider, kind of. I’m pretty sure you can ask any other guy who has a long-term injury. You just feel left out. You have such a tight group of guys hanging out together all the time and stuff, so that first road trip that I missed was pretty tough. At least when they’re at home, you see them at the rink every day, talk to them and hang out. But when they’re gone, there isn’t much to do. So what did you do with your time?
I was hanging out with my girlfriend, doing all that stuff. I live down by the beach, and I’m used to riding my bike or taking my longboard down there, going for a walk or paddleboarding. With a foot injury, you can’t do any of that, so at the end of the day, I was just sitting at home. Maybe we’d take the car down to Laguna and sit at a restaurant. I saw a lot of movies, got back into video gaming, which I haven’t done in a long time. I played a lot of GTA [Grand Theft Auto] 5. But being away from the guys, and not being able to keep busy off the ice, it gets boring after awhile. You come here and workout, it takes about three or four hours with therapy, and then I’m like, What am I going to do now? I’ve seen all the movies in the theater. But I’m glad it’s done now, and hopefully I’ll be healthy the rest of the year.