Forward Steve Sullivan joined the Predators for practice today, the first time he has participated in a practice with the team this season. He was able to stay out for the full length of practice and skate at full speed with the team, though in a non-contact capacity.
Watch: Sully at Tuesday's Practice
“With the way the schedule works with Christmas, New Years, the team going on the road, today was just an opportunity for me to go out and be on the ice for an hour and fifteen, twenty minutes; do the drills I could handle with the team,” Sullivan said of the decision to skate with the team today. “We’ll re-evaluate tomorrow morning and see if it was too much or if we handled it correctly, if we need to take something away or if we can add something. Every day is a different day; we’re re-assessing day by day; we’re not guessing, estimating, or giving any timetable as to when I’ll be able to skate again. We are on a day-to-day basis. I’m hoping to feel good tomorrow morning and continue the process.”
Sullivan, who missed the past season and a half after injuring his back late in the 2006-07 season, has been vigorously rehabbing with the team’s medical staff in hopes of attempting to make a comeback with the team. Today’s practice marked a major milestone in his progress. Coach Trotz even mentioned how surprised he was at the level Sullivan was able to perform during today’s drills.
“He did surprisingly well for someone who has been out as long as he’s been out,” Coach Trotz said. “Having him back adds some excitement to the group, but he’s still just out there on his own timetable. He may be out there five minutes and leave the ice or may be out there an hour.”
Still, but Sullivan and Coach Trotz cautioned that there were several major steps still ahead. Before even talking about a potential return to the lineup, Sullivan would need to participate in several weeks worth of practices, then participate in full contact drills, and then work into conditioning games.
“He’s still in non-contact mode,” Trotz said, “but he’s made a lot of progress. He’s at the point where he can practice with us, which is good, but there’s absolutely no time frame on when he’ll move to the next step.”
All the while, Sullivan is taking the process one day at a time.
“I’ve got a bad back,” Sullivan said. “Since it happened, there’s not one morning I wake up and don’t feel it. It’s there. It’s a matter of trying to manage the pain and strengthen everything around it. But we haven’t looked past the next day at all. Every morning I come in and (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Dave Good and I re-assess how I feel and where the pain level is and then we build a program for that one day based on how I feel.”
Even if it was just for one day, it was a big step forward for No. 26 to get back on the ice, skating through the drills, shooting the puck, joking with teammates.