It's nice to get out of that blue jersey finally. It's been great getting back out with the guys. Obviously, I'll be in good enough shape to play. It's just waiting to see how the wrist does. - Joe Colborne
BUFFALO, NY -- The closer he gets, the more Joe Colborne feels the need to scratch the itch.
Having missed 18 games with a lingering wrist issue, the Calgary Flames forward is due back to action any day. He just doesn’t know which, exactly.
“I would not wish that on my worst enemy, what I've been through,” Colborne said following Wednesday’s skate at First Niagara Center, one which he exchanged his blue ‘non contact’ jersey for white for the first time since sustaining his injury on Oct. 28 against the Montreal Canadiens.
“I'm sure that I'll be in good shape when I come back, but you can only prepare so much for game shape. Nothing beats actually going out there and playing in a game. The first game or two might take a little bit of getting used to it again, but my body will bounce right back because of all the hard work we've put in.”
Alone, with other injured teammates or with the big group, Colborne has skated. And skated. And skated.
Conditioning isn’t impeding Colborne’s return. His wrist is, however.
“The worst injury for a hockey player when it comes to conditioning, worst for the player, best for the organization is a wrist injury because you can do lots and lots of skating,” coach Bob Hartley said. “This guy has air miles to go for about 10 free trips around the world with all the miles that he’s skated in the past three weeks or a month. You know what? Never complained once.”
Complain? No. That’s not really in the vocabulary of the 6-foot-5, 213-pound centre/winger.
The word frustration might be creeping in. Patience is already there, though.
“This last week has been probably the hardest -- just knowing that I've been back shooting and now I'm back playing with the guys and doing some contact stuff,” Colborne said. “We're getting close. Real close. I'm excited to get back.
“Obviously, I'll be in good enough shape to play. It's just waiting to see how the wrist does.”
Colborne is so close, in fact, that he could potentially draw back into the lineup Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.
It’s far from a guarantee, but the potential is there according to Hartley.
“Joe is very, very close,” said Hartley, who credited Colborne with being the fittest Flame based on the sheer volume of skating he’s done of late. “I don’t know yet his status for tomorrow night’s game. We will meet later on and we’ll re-evaluate tomorrow morning.
“He’s very, very close. I’m not saying he’s going to play. I’m saying he’s a possibility.”
When close becomes confirmed, Colborne figures he’ll have no problem picking up right where he left off.
Amidst the best start of his young NHL career, the 24-year-old was among the League’s elite with eight helpers through 11 games. Previously, Colborne had 23 through his first 99 contests split between the Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Little doubt remains he can come back from the injury without skipping a beat.
“I wouldn't say it derailed anything, but obviously I was feeling great with the way I was playing at the start of the year,” Colborne said. “Now, it's going to be a challenge just to pick up where I left off.
“Same stuff that I've been working on all of last year — being good in all three zones, take pucks to the net, use my body and control pucks down low ... Just try to pick up where I left off, I guess.”