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Lundqvist hopes to be cleared for NHL return after open-heart surgery

Capitals goalie to meet with doctors soon about future, had procedure in January

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Sitdown with Henrik Lundqvist

Lundqvist chats with Weekes Part 2

Henrik Lundqvist sits down with Kevin Weekes to discuss his progress to return healthy, and his desire to be back on the ice

  • 10:57 •

Henrik Lundqvist said he hopes to resume playing in the NHL after recovering from open-heart surgery, but the Washington Capitals goalie's future will depend on his next examination later this month.

"I love it. I want to compete, and it's going to come down to testing and conversations with the doctors," Lundqvist said in an interview on NHL Network on Wednesday. "It's coming up, so we're getting close to that point. And until then, I just keep grinding, and then we'll see what happens."

In a wide-ranging conversation recorded Sunday, the 39-year-old detailed his emotional ride from learning in mid-December he needed surgery to replace a heart valve, through the initial steps of his recovery, returning to the ice and doing whatever he can to try to play again.

Lundqvist signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Capitals on Oct. 9 after he had the final season of his contract bought out by the New York Rangers on Sept. 30. After 15 seasons with New York, Lundqvist said he was excited about starting a new chapter with Washington and was about to pack his bags for his move when he got the news.

"I'd been aware of a heart condition for 15 years that I had a leaky valve and at some point it needed to be fixed, but over the course of a few months things changed and the leak got worse and my aorta started to get too big and the pressure in the heart was too high," Lundqvist said. "But all along, I was like, 'This is going to work. We're going to make it work.' … And I get the call from one of the specialists that it was part of the process and it's like, 'I'm sorry, but your tests came back worse than we thought.'"

By early January, he was at the Cleveland Clinic having surgery. He approached his long road back, which began with him using a walker in the hallway outside his hospital room, like he approached the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"This was a different battle, but I think the key was mostly I tried to stay in the moment, kind of like when you play the game," Lundqvist said. "Don't look far. OK, this is what we need to do now, stay in that, and you just took it step by step." 

Seven weeks after his surgery, Lundqvist began training on the ice again at a rink in Alpine, New Jersey, on Feb. 23, with some controlled drills. He said he has skated almost every day since then.

"I love the grind, but you love the results from grinding, putting in the work," Lundqvist said. "So if I get an opportunity, I'll put in everything I have, obviously."

Even if Lundqvist isn't back in time to play for the Capitals this season, he said when he closes his eyes, he can envision himself playing and getting another chance at the Cup after reaching the 2014 Stanley Cup Final with the Rangers before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

He said that was his motivation for signing with the Capitals. 

"I see it. I see it," Lundqvist said. "But in a way, it's kind of out of my control. I still have to listen and talk to the experts. Other than that, it's just be happy."

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