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Steve Sullivan: "We're going to do an extensive core and back workout this summer. I'm planning on being stronger and better than I was this year."
One Predators player who could have had a major impact on Nashville's playoff fate was forced to watch as his teammates were eliminated in five games by the San Jose Sharks. Forward Steve Sullivan, who amassed 60 points in 57 games during the regular season, was sidelined for the final 20 games of the schedule and all playoff games with back problems. No one was more disappointed than the 5'8", 165-pound Timmins, Ont. native.
"It was extremely frustrating," Sullivan said Monday, as the Predators players gathered for exit interviews and physicals. "Probably the most [frustrated] I've ever been in my career. As a hockey player, you do have injuries and you sit out games, but having to watch your guys go to war, playing for the ultimate prize--I mean, growing up, we all want to win the Stanley Cup, and I don't get that opportunity to go help my hockey team. It was very frustrating trying to watch the games and just seeing the guys working so hard. Blood, sweat and tears going into different games and I'm not able to help and I'm on the sidelines. It was very hard."
When Predators general manager David Poile offered his post-season analysis and his look at the future at a Tuesday press conference, he echoed Sullivan's sentiments.
"The only injury of concern to me in terms of long term--and deep down I don't think it will be a concern--[is] Steve Sullivan," Poile said. "His back thing was very frustrating to everybody. He's been to multiple doctors and I don't know exactly what the game plan is going forward other than maybe just rest and more rehab to his core area because there was nothing found in terms of structural damage or anything like that. It was just a really frustrating injury for both the team and the player."
After collecting a goal and an assist in his last game of the season on Feb. 22, Sullivan was listed as day-to-day with back spasms. The problem lingered, though, and days became weeks. Sullivan spent the remainder of the season visiting a variety of doctors and attempting to return to the ice. Now he's looking forward to a summer break that he believes will allow him to recover fully and prepare for next season.
"I've got five months to get better now, without the pressure of having to try to make a comeback," he said. "Physically and mentally it was very draining for me to try to skate every second or every third day on my own at a different rink to try to stay away from the guys and try not to be a distraction. [It was also draining to] try to make myself better flying cross-country to see different doctors from here and there and not really finding the problem--knowing that rest was probably the biggest thing that I needed. What's great about it is that none of the tests that I've done show any kind of damage for long-term. We're going to do an extensive core and back workout this summer. I'm planning on being stronger and better than I was this year.
"I did a lot of core for my hernia surgeries that I had done last year, and that worked out very well," he added. "Now it's a matter of doing some different exercises and doing a different program this year to make sure that the back is good."