CALGARY, AB -- This is uncharted territory for Johnny Gaudreau.
The Flames' flashy forward couldn't even watch his team grind out a 2-1 overtime victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday because he was on his way back from Vancouver after undergoing successful surgery to repair a busted finger, the result of one final slash a night earlier in Minnesota.
Prior to Wednesday, Gaudreau had only missed a few NHL games due to injury, and although his career is relatively young, it still says a lot about the 23-year-old given he's one of the smallest players in the league at 5-foot-9, 157-pounds and the extra attention he receives every game from the opposition.
"First time really being injured, so it's tough to come to the rink and not get on the ice," said Gaudreau on Friday. "Just being around the guys, it helps me try to rehab as quick as possible.
"It's difficult. I went through it at the end of last season a little bit, couple games there, but this is a little bit more serious."
It's a tough blow for the Flames, who have reeled off a pair of wins and look to be finding their groove after an inconsistent stretch of a dozen games or so.
Gaudreau had struggled earlyon, by his standards, putting up five goals and 11 points in 17 games but was heating up with three goals in his last four games. He finished among the league's top scorers in the 2015-16 season with 30 goals and 78 points in 79 games.
"I think our line was starting to get some good chances there and we were finding the net," Gaudreau said. "Starting to get into a groove and you take a tough slash and now you're out for six weeks. I felt good there those last two or three games.
"It's unfortunate that it had to go that way."
Gaudreau's injury generated a lot of attention around the league and inspired a lot of dialogue around the nature in which he sustained the injury.
A slash, courtesy of Wild forward Eric Staal, is what broke Gaudreau's finger and it was the final straw in a series of slashes and whacks Gaudreau received during the game.
A part of the game that is nothing new to Gaudreau and something he's had to fight through his entire career.
"It's part of the game. It's part of my job, playing hockey," Gaudreau explained. "I think player's around the league take shots like that, however, many they take in the game, it's difficult.
"It's difficult on the refs, you never know when it's a bad slash or a love tap. I can see why it's tough for them at times, but it's part of hockey.
"I forget who slashed me, but it was the last slash I took in the game. I knew something was wrong right away. I went back to the trainer's room, took X-rays, and right after that knew it was fractured. I was pretty upset about that, but there's nothing you can do."
The expected recovery for Gaudreau is the six-week range, give or take a week or so, depending on a number of factors.
The good news for the Flames is the surgery Gaudreau had is routine and not a lot that can go wrong in the recovery process.
"I have four to six weeks here to skate on the ice and I can work with that kind of stuff. It's not the first time I've been slashed before, so it's something I need to look into ... getting a little more padding in my gloves. Try to feel a little more comfortable with gloves that offer more protection."
The Flames will host the Chicago Blackhawks, who have won eight of their last 10 games, tonight before embarking on a six-games-in-nine-nights road swing.
It will be a tough few weeks for Gaudreau, who will join the team on the trip through the East, which includes stops in his old stomping grounds of Boston and Philadephia.
"I'm going to rely on my teammates, hang out with them on the road trip and be around the team as much as possible. I want to be a part of the team and part of the atmosphere as much as I can."