After a summer of training, NHLers always say they feel stronger and faster than the year before. Cal Clutterbuck said that he feels taller.
At 31, Clutterbuck is probably done growing, but that's how the Islanders forward feels now that he can walk upright again, the result of offseason back surgery that cleared up a cornucopia of issues.
The rundown: a stress fracture, two rotated vertebrae and two slipped discs. Enough injuries that Clutterbuck conceded could have ended his career.
"There was potential for career-ending," Clutterbuck said. "As soon as I woke up from the operation, [I felt] it kind of worked for me to be fine and continue playing."
The recovery period was about 12 weeks, with Clutterbuck able to skate after seven weeks. There initial euphoria of being pain-free lasted about a week-and-a-half before he got antsy to train, which was delayed due to the rehab. Fast forward to September and he's been on the ice for the better part of two months and is happy to be skating and training with his usual intensity.
"I have no problems. I feel normal," Clutterbuck said. "Obviously I didn't have the summer guys normally have, so we'll see how I feel getting on the ice, but I feel good."
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm2: Clutterbuck lays out Malkin on the rush
Clutterbuck added that he doesn't just feel better on the ice, but off of it too. His back issues caused him pain and discomfort whether he was playing, sitting or lying down, not just throwing - and taking - hits and twisting around for one-timers.
"It wasn't fun," Clutterbuck said. "For me, it was all the hours in the day that I wasn't on the ice. On the ice it felt better than I felt when I was sitting in a chair or lying in bed. Being on the ice was slightly therapeutic on the ice. It was tough, but it almost felt better on the ice when I was sitting in the chair."
The feeling in his back has been night and day since the procedure.
"I got out of [surgery] and remarked to my wife, I don't think I've felt this tall for a long time," Clutterbuck added. "Just being able to stand up, you lose sight of what normal feels like. It gives me the indication that it might have been lingering for a long time and got to the point where I needed surgery. It is what it is, I feel good now."