Beau Bennett assumed the worst when he went down in practice last month, and really, who can blame him? He’s had awful luck when it comes to injuries.
Lower-body and wrist issues limited Bennett to just 21 games played in 2013-14, his second professional season. He spent the entire summer rehabbing following May wrist surgery, and the work he put in was noticeable as Bennett was arguably the Pens’ best player throughout the first week of training camp.
But his progress was derailed on Sept. 26, when Bennett suffered a lower-body injury after after Zach Sill’s skate blade clipped him on the back of the heel during a drill and sent him to the ice in an awkward manner.
At the time, head coach Mike Johnston said Bennett’s initial thought was ‘oh no, here I go again.’ But fortunately, the injury wasn’t as bad as he feared and Bennett was given a six-week timetable for recovery – which is much better than six months.
“My luck hasn’t been there, really. But when something like that happens in practice, it’s unavoidable,” said the 22-year-old winger. “It happens, you’ve got to just come back from it. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as I thought at first. It kind of scared me the way I went down and what I felt when I went down. So it was great to hear from the MRI that it wasn’t going to be as long as I thought.”
Bennett’s rehab is progressing right on schedule. He skated with the team for the second straight day on Wednesday. Johnston said as far as a timeline for returning to game action, they are probably looking into later next week. The focus right now is getting him cleared for contact.
“Beau is going to progress in practice now that he’s taken a full practice to hopefully get some contact drills in the next couple days,” Johnston said. “Modified contact and then we’ll just slowly build up from there. So there’s good signs. It was a good sign today he did the extra skate at the end and went through every drill except for the two contact drills we had. So I thought he looked really good.”
Bennett said doesn’t feel too far off conditioning-wise, as he’s been able to ride the bike and lift weights “pretty heavily” despite the injury.
“I feel in great shape, to be honest,” he said. “I feel the same as I did in training camp. My hands feel good (and so does) my conditioning. The good thing with an MCL injury is that you’re able to still work out, still work out your legs. Lateral movement is kind of tough, but I was able to keep up and keep my conditioning up, so I feel good out there.”
It’s a tough situation for the young forward to be in, but Bennett has been trying to keep his injury in perspective.
“There’s a lot bigger things in the world going on,” he said. “You’ve got a guy like Olli (Maatta), he’s competing as hard as he can with (a neck tumor). So it kind of keeps it all in perspective that he’s able to do that. With that in the back of his mind, it’s pretty amazing.”
It helps that Johnston has wanted him to be as involved as possible during his rehab. Bennett has sat in on video sessions and team meetings as he’s worked to get back healthy.
“Coach preached that right when I got injured,” Bennett said. “He’s like, I still want you around the team. Little different than last year (where) if you’re injured, you don’t want to be seen by anyone. So it’s kind of cool that you’re still involved and still keeping up with all the stuff that’s going on. I don’t feel far off as far as system-wise.
“It’s just a minor setback in a long season and I just want to get out there and start helping out.”
Defenseman Paul Martin was the only player absent from practice on Wednesday.
“Paul just had a stiff back from yesterday,” Johnston said. “Sometimes you get those maintenance days, and that was a maintenance day for him.”
INJURED KINGS SKATE
The Kings took the ice for a practice of their own right after the Pens finished. A noteable takeaway is that Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik participated. Both players missed Tuesday’s game in Philly due to injury.