Although still in a gold non-contact jersey, Justin Williams took part in the team’s full practice this morning as he continues to be well ahead of schedule in recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon.
Actually, ahead of schedule might depend on who you ask.
“It’s been quicker than everybody else anticipated. I’ll tell you that I’m behind,” said Williams. “It’s going about as well as I could have hoped. It’s feeling better every day, which is a huge positive for me. I’m not going backwards at all out there. Every day is better, and hopefully I’ll get to that point where I get to 100 percent.”
The front end of the initial four-to-six month timetable announced after his September 18 surgery would have him back in mid-January. That certainly remains in play, although no one will commit to a revised timetable just yet.
“I think it’s still real uncertain at this point,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “It’s a good thing for him just to get back out there.”
Although he hasn’t looked out of place when skating with his teammates, Williams says he still needs to work on his speed and balance. He’s kept in shape during his recovery process, and getting some regular skating work in now should help ease the eventual transition back into the lineup.
One reason he’s been able to get back on the ice so quickly is that his foot doesn’t undergo the same kind of stress in a skate as it would otherwise. His injury occurred while running during a preseason workout.
”When he’s in that boot, his Achilles is pretty restricted in there to what he can do,” said Laviolette.
“He’s been cleared by the doctors to go out and do what he did, we’ve just got to keep him out of contact for right now.”
When he does come back, he’ll help give the Canes some excellent depth at right wing, which they thought they had coming into the season with Williams, Tuomo Ruutu
and Scott Walker on their top three lines.
As it turned out, all three of those players have missed time this season, including a three-game period where none were healthy enough to play.
”Sometimes I think when people analyze our team they forget about him, and he’s a 30-goal scorer that’s out of our lineup,” said GM Jim Rutherford.
“It will be like trading for a good player at the midway point or at the trade deadline and not having to give up anything for him.”
Like Williams, defenseman Frank Kaberle also practiced in a non-contact jersey, marking the first time that the entire roster has practiced at once. Kaberle’s recuperation from a fractured leg has taken a little longer than anticipated, and may not be over quite yet.
”If you ask the two of them who feels better, I’m sure Willy feels better than Frank right now,” said Laviolette. “Frank’s dealing with a broken bone that’s taking some time recovering.”