Vincent Lecavalier and Paul Ranger have been through this before. Andrej Meszaros is new to it after missing the first game action of his career, snapping a streak of 298 consecutive games played. Once again the Lightning medical room is bustling with activity this summer as the three players rehab following surgeries near the end of the season.
For Lecavalier, this summer will be much easier than the last when he had surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder after being hit in the second to last game of 2007-08. That injury delayed the procedure to clean up his right wrist, originally schedule for this time last year, to this summer.
“Vinny is, for the most part, unrestricted right now,” Lightning Head Athletic Trainer Tom Mulligan said. “He’s got full range of motion and he’s working on his strength with no pain and no complaints. If we were in season right now he would be back on the ice. He would be able to stickhandle and do some light shooting at this point.”
The plan is for Lecavalier to have a full summer to rehab and strengthen his wrist so he can be 100 percent come training camp in September, which is something that he has not had in recent memory. He is expected to resume full training by the middle of May.
“He’s at that point now where he can do his whole program without any restrictions,” Mulligan said.
For Ranger, this is déjà vu. He had the same surgery on his right shoulder last summer and now must go through the entire rehab process again on the left side.
“I think what’s made it easier is that I know what to expect this summer,” Ranger said. “As far as the first two weeks after the surgery, knowing what you can and can’t do. Those are the toughest two weeks. From there on you know when you can push it and when you can’t.”
Ranger recently met with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Alabama and he was pleased with the results, declaring that Ranger is right on schedule. Dr. Andrews also said that Ranger is probably doing better than he was at this point in his recovery last year.
“It will be real nice to be playing at 100 percent,” Ranger said. “I haven’t been able to do that the last couple years. I’m excited to play fully healthy, with no restrictions.”
Meszaros is new to this whole being injured thing. Not even a puck to the face could keep him out of the line-up. He played 298 consecutive games to begin his career before finally missing his first game on February 7 to undergo a procedure to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. Dr. Andrews also performed the procedure on Meszaros and said he is also progressing nicely.
“I’m feeling good and getting better,” Meszaros said. “I think I’m ahead of schedule. The doctor said I can go home soon so I can do my treatment there. I have to go see him again some time in the beginning of June. I’m positive I’ll be ready for training camp but you never know what’s going to happen. It gets better every day now so hopefully it will stay that way and just keep improving.”
Meszaros will return to his native Slovakia next week and will continue his rehab there. Aside from rehabbing, he will work out and follow the Lightning off-season conditioning program to prepare for next season when he will hopefully begin another impressive consecutive games played streak.
“For sure,” Meszaros said. “I haven’t played hockey for a while now so I can’t wait.”
THE LONG ROAD BACK
It is hard work for Ranger and Meszaros as they work their way back. While most players are vacationing at their summer homes, the Lightning defensemen are in the locker room early each morning to put in their time on the road to full recovery.
“They come in each day and go through a warm up on the shoulder,” Mulligan said. “[Assistant Athletic Trainer] Mike Poirier works with them every day for their range of motion and strengthening. Then they’ll go into the gym and do some stabilization exercises, focusing on the strengthening of the shoulder. From there they’ll come back in and do another session of range of motion and some joint mobilization to finish up the day. Each of them spend about two hours a day with us. They also have a home program they work on late in the day for some motion. They’re putting in a lot of work.”
The plan is to have them able to do their full summer training programs by late July at the latest. Then they would use the month of August to fine-tune their strengths so that they are ready to take the ice without any restrictions for training camp. Using last year as an example, Ranger is a month and a half earlier ahead of where he was last year.
“I’m okay, its getting better,” Ranger said. “We’re nine weeks out now. Its going a little more smoothly than last summer, which is nice. Hopefully this is the last time and I’ll never have to worry about it again.”
At least Ranger has had a partner to rehab with. Last summer he and Lecavalier both had the same surgery on the same shoulder, and now this summer Ranger and Meszaros are recovering from the same procedure.
“Its good because the two of them kind of push each other and battle each other, similar to what we had last year with Vinny and Range,” Mulligan said. “This year we have Mez and Range where they can push each other and gauge how they are progressing. Both of them are now fully into their strengthening phases of the rehab.”