CALGARY, AB -- A change of shooters has goaltender Jonas Hiller cautious optimistic about a return.
The 33-year-old joined in on practice Monday, trading trainers for teammates for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury in an Oct. 28 game against the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s nice. When you’re home by yourself you feel kind of left out,” Hiller said. “It’s nice to be on the ice with the team even if I don’t feel perfect yet. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
A step, but the goaltender is taking the cautious approach to his return.
“I still don’t trust it 100 percent,” Hiller said. “I still have to get that routine back and on the ice, you think about how it feels first and then about stopping a puck. Once I trust it, I will feel comfortable doing whatever it takes to stop the puck. I think before that, it doesn’t make sense to play. I don’t feel that I’m too far.”
Hiller sustained the injury in a late-game collision with Senators forward Bobby Ryan, a goal-mouth bump that at the time suggested a head injury be more likely.
Instead, he was left with one bothering his hip.
“I saw it and it looked like the head,” Hiller said. “That felt fine, but my hip got the worst of it I guess. Luckily nothing too bad, but it still took some time to recover properly.”
He’s been given the time to.
Fellow goaltender Karri Ramo is in line for his eighth straight start Tuesday versus the New Jersey Devils, and the Flames are ensuring that Hiller isn’t rushing back too soon.
It’s the wait-and-see approach, Calgary coach Bob Hartley declared.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We wanted to see how he would react to practice today. So [Tuesday] morning we’re going to have a better read on how he feels. But I asked him on the ice and he said that he didn’t feel anything.”
The Flames have gone 4-5-0 in the games following Hiller’s injury.
He's had to sit idly by, uncomfortably.
“Sometimes it’s tough to watch,” Hiller said. “I switch them off but I still want to know what’s going on. It’s not a nice thing, especially if the team is struggling a little bit. You feel for them and then you see them in Washington and they score and you say, ‘not again.’ You try to stay positive. I’d rather be playing. I can focus more on the game and not worry about those things.”
But as much as he’d like to, Hiller’s return isn’t one that can be rushed.
“You want to be out there as soon as possible, but you can do a lot of damage if you go out too early,” he said. “It’s a lot how you feel, not like a broken bone where they can tell you it’s all healed up. In the end, it’s how I feel. I feel confident because I progressed pretty well over the last week when I was skating and felt better every day. This is the next step and hopefully I’ll feel better again tomorrow.”