has been chomping at the bit for the last few weeks, as most athletes are in similar situations. After suffering a season-ending knee injury on March 13, 2002 in a mid-ice collision vs. Boston, Dvorak has spent the entire summer getting prepared to return to the ice for the start of the 2002-03 campaign.
On Sunday, September 29, Dvorak did just that, as he suited up for the first time in more than seven months, ironically against the Bruins, at Madison Square Garden. Dvorak skated alongside Mark Messier
and Rico Fata
for much of the game (including a few shifts on the power play), and even used his speed to grab a loose puck behind the Boston net and feed Fata for his first period goal.
“I felt great (tonight),” said Dvorak after the game. “I had a lot of fun and I’m glad we won. I think I will be ready (for opening night). Tonight was a big test for me. The knee held up and I didn’t feel any pain. Everything was pain-free, so I’m ready to go."
Rangers head coach Bryan Trottier
liked what he saw from the winger. “After training camp he had a great jump on the puck,” noted the Blueshirt bench boss. “He is handling the puck with confidence. He is positive and doesn’t throw it away. He is very confident, went into the corners and into the danger zones in front of the net.”
The road to recovery was a first for the Czech Republic winger, who until March, had never suffered a serious injury during his seven seasons in the NHL. But with a positive outlook and the support and guidance of the Rangers medical staff, Dvorak is looking to rebound from a tough 2001-02 season.
“The only thing on my mind is to get playing and have some fun the way I always have before last year,” said Dvorak.
During Training Camp in Vermont, Dvorak skated each day during practice breaks, usually with Trottier flying around the ice behind him. When the team returned to Westchester to begin practice at the new MSG Training Center, he was finally cleared to resume full contact drills with the team.
“This was my first week of full practice and everything feels fine,” said the 10th overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. “There is no swelling or anything, but we just didn’t want to rush things.”
The Rangers are looking to Dvorak to have a strong season and regain the scoring touch that he displayed during the 2000-01 season where he netted a career-high 31 goals, 36 assists and 67 points. If his enthusiasm off the ice translates into production on the ice, the Blueshirts will be more than satisfied with his recovery.
“I had a good summer and stayed positive. I’ve been practicing hard and now I’m ready to play.”