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Light At The End Of The Tunnel

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Defenseman Bryan Allen has already spent six months rehabilitating his knee after surgery cost him all but two games of the season. Allen has taken steps in getting back to playing. (Getty Images)

By Dave Joseph for

Bryan Allen wasn’t on the ice most of this season, but he seemed to be everywhere else.

While many might have forgotten about the Panthers defenseman after he underwent knee surgery after just two games into the season, Allen was never far from the team or his teammates.

Whether he was hobbling on crutches at IncredibleIce, watching games from the press box at BankAtlantic Center or, Monday, riding a stationary bicycle while teammates cleaned out their lockers, Allen, the team’s assistant captain, was visible while plotting and working for what he hopes will be a successful return come the 2009-10 season.

“It’s been a really tough year,” said Allen recently while rehabilitating at BankAtlantic Center. “You definitely have your days when you’re, ‘This isn’t working,’ or ‘This isn’t right. This is the end.’ ”

But for the first time in five months, Allen was given clearance to begin some weight training after a recent visit to his doctors in Vail, Colorado.

“I’m still pretty limited,” Allen said. “It’s baby steps. They’ll see how (the knee) reacts to this the next little while. I’m not trying to rush into it or put too much of a strenuous hold on it right away.

“But it feels good, and I’ve got five months to get ready for training camp.”

A solid, physical defenseman, Allen’s knee problems came as a bit of a surprise.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery last summer to clean out “loose bodies” in the knee. While he missed time during training camp, Allen played the first two games of the season. He logged 24:00 in the opener Oct. 10 in Carolina and 30:22 in the Panthers’ overtime victory Oct. 11 against the Thrashers. It was after the game against the Thrashers Allen complained of swelling in the knee.

“That was the frustrating thing,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of pain or anything. I just had substantial swelling. The swelling was my only indicator that something was wrong.”

Allen said he still has “some swelling, but that’s what they’re trying to control and watch and gauge while making sure I don’t do too much.”

“There’s a set plan now,” he said. “I’ve gone to Vail and figured out where I want to be and when I want to be there. Obviously, the goal is to get ready for a training program. So it starts with strength movement and exercises. I probably won’t do any significant weight stuff until August, and start skating at the same time.”

For the 29-year-old Allen, the toughest part after the surgery was being patient, especially during the eight weeks he spent on crutches and hooked up to a CPM motion machine.

“It was the longest eight weeks of my life,” he said. “First of all, I’m on crutches and couldn’t walk, even to touch down on it. But I also had the motion machine, which I had to be on eight hours a day.

“My mentality isn’t to sit back and wait for something to happen. I want to fix it by myself, or work harder or do more here and there. So it was frustrating, but I guess it was good, too. I had to stick to the plan. What’s the old adage? Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how my body works, and there is something to positive thinking and its healing. You can’t be a pessimist and think it’s not going to work because, you know, it probably won’t. I mean, you’re beat before you start thinking like that. You’ve got to stay positive.”

Like Panthers fan, Allen said he was disappointed the team didn’t make the playoffs, losing on a tiebreaker to Montreal.

“You have to realize there’s peaks and valleys in every season, but I think they deserved better,” Allen said of his teammates. “I think we’re going in the right direction. No one is satisfied not making the playoffs, and it doesn’t matter if you’re one point out or 30. You didn’t make it. There’s going to be work to be done.”

And Allen will work all summer on getting a head start.
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