New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello is set to make his preseason debut Thursday against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Last season came to a scary end for Zuccarello when he was hit in the head by a shot from teammate Ryan McDonagh in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Zuccarello missed the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after sustaining a fractured skull and brain contusion that initially left him unable to speak for several days.
"I am happy to be here today and it's an exciting day for me to come back," Zuccarello told reporters according to Blueshirts United.
Zuccarello turned 28 on Sept. 1 and is coming off a two-season run where he's scored 34 goals and 108 points in 155 games.
He was a key factor in the Rangers' run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final with five goals and 13 points in 25 games. But after his 2015 postseason was cut short, his future on and off the ice was cast into doubt.
"Right away my thought was, 'How's my life going to be like this? I can't talk, I can't function.' And after that it was, 'Am I going to play again?'" Zuccarello said.
He spent the summer at home in Norway and didn't skate after arriving back in New York last month, but said Thursday he feels strong. Getting into a preseason game will allow Zuccarello to make sure he's comfortable playing in front of the net and adjusting to the fast pace.
"I'll just have to see when I get out there," Zuccarello said. "That's part of my game, being gritty and going into dirty areas. That's how I have to play; and hopefully I'm going to do that, and that's my mindset to do that."