Athletes play to win the game, but sometimes the result is secondary, as was the case for Chris Kreider on Friday night.
The speedy winger was back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 27 following surgery to remedy a blood clot in his arm. In total, he missed 24 games, but gained a new perspective on life and hockey.
"I felt like it was my first NHL game again," he said after the team's loss to Minnesota. "I was kind of nervous all day. It was definitely an emotional game for me, thinking about where I was six weeks ago and the position I was in, kind of reflecting on all of the support that I had. It's hard because obviously the team is going through a rough time, but I couldn't stop smiling. I'm just happy to be playing hockey again."
Kreider possesses a unique blend of size, skill, speed and physicality that few players do. And his absence was felt in a big way, with the Blueshirts winning just seven times with Kreider out of the lineup.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Kreider's presence Friday was felt from the drop of the puck.
"I thought he brought us some good energy," he said. "The speed that he brings, that take-away speed that he has where he can push the other team's defense, it was there. You saw a young man there that was out for quite some time with a serious injury. He really worked his way back, and wanted to come back and help the team. It was good to see."
Video: Chris Kreider on return to the lineup
Kreider has stated he's always appreciated the good fortune hockey has given him throughout his life. Now in his seventh season in the NHL, it would be easy for Kreider to lose track of how lucky he is to be playing the game he loves, but with the seriousness of the injury, he said that won't be the case.
"That I'm really lucky to be playing hockey at all, let alone in the NHL," he said. "It's hard not to appreciate every single game at this point, especially this first one. The right word is perspective, so I was happy to be out there and happy to be with my teammates. I'm just trying to appreciate every moment."