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Canadiens forward Pacioretty unsure when he'll play

by Arpon Basu

LAVAL, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty isn't sure if he will be healthy to start the regular season, but he is comfortable saying that his recovery from fractures in the tibial plateau below his left knee are progressing well.

The Canadiens said Pacioretty, who was injured July 9, would need 12 weeks to recover, a time frame that would end six days before Montreal opens the 2015-16 season Oct. 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Obviously I don't know how far along I am, but I know that strength-wise and mobility-wise I feel very good," Pacioretty said Thursday at the Canadiens' annual charity golf tournament. "Now it just depends on the bone healing, and that's something that can only be determined through scans. So that's how we're keeping up with it, with the scans to see the progression."

Pacioretty did not bring his golf clubs to the charity event, instead leaving after speaking with the media to continue his rehabilitation at the Canadiens' training facility in Brossard, Quebec. He had a noticeable limp when he walked, but was expected to skate for a third straight day Thursday.

The Canadiens players will report for physicals and testing Sept. 17, with the on-ice portion of training camp beginning the next day. Pacioretty was not sure when he would be able to join his teammates on the ice in camp, but said he will be preparing with an eye toward the season opener.

"I think the progression looks good," he said. "I'm trying to ramp up every day and more intense every day. Even if I'm not out there with the team at first, I think I'm able to do a lot on my own with the trainers to maybe even be more beneficial for what I'm going for right now. I haven't skated in so long, some of that fine-tuning you kind of have to do on your own out there, and it's not exactly stuff you pick up in drills."

Pacioretty, 26, has led the Canadiens in goals in each of the past three seasons, and his 76 goals the past two seasons are tied for third in the NHL.

On a team that struggles offensively, losing Pacioretty for any amount of time would be a significant blow to the Canadiens.

The initial reaction of coach Michel Therrien when he got the news of Pacioretty's injury was a good reflection of his importance to the team.

"Scared to death," Therrien said with a laugh. "You never want to see your players getting hurt, especially your elite players. It's a serious injury, but you've got to give [Pacioretty] a lot of credit. We're at the office right now since two weeks, and [Pacioretty] is there. I don't know the amount of hours, but at times he's there earlier than me. So he's putting a lot of effort to be ready when the season starts. I can't tell if he's going to be ready, nobody can tell, but he's putting in a lot of effort."

Pacioretty sustained the injury doing sprints during his offseason workouts in Boca Raton, Fla. He said he felt his hamstring pull and stopped abruptly, hyperextending the knee and causing the fractures, though he was lucky to avoid any ligament damage in the knee.

He said he has been training every day since the injury, but obviously had to take it easy on the injured leg while it healed. He now is catching up for lost time and likes the way the muscle is starting to build back up.

"There's ways to train your legs without weight bearing, and that's where the trainers have to get creative," Pacioretty said. "I lost a lot of muscle mass in my leg and it's not completely back, but we've been measuring it and it's close to back to normal. I still have four weeks now to get it completely back and I think that’s hopefully doable."

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