“I’m as good as new, as the doctors say.”
That’s what Mats Zuccarello told reporters Tuesday at the MSG Training Center after a scrimmage with about 20 of his teammates, nearly five months after a slapshot to the side of his head ended his season with the Rangers in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“My head feels fine and ready to go,” Zuccarello said, adding that he has been skating for a few weeks in New York, but the post-Labor Day scrimmage was by far the hardest he’s pushed himself.
“I haven’t skated for that long,” Zuccarello said. “I’ve been working out hard, but it took me time to get going before I could do everything and feel in shape. I feel like I’m on my way there and still go some weeks before the season starts. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go.”
Zuccarello, who said he’ll be wearing a helmet with more protection this season, said there was a difference this offseason than in years past thanks to the injury.
“I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to right away,” said Zuccarello, who scored 15 goals and 49 points last year. “I had to wait a little bit. I haven’t been skating for that long, but I mean other than that I feel good. All that’s going to come as we go on the ice more and more here.”
The 28-year-old said he has one follow-up with a doctor scheduled and he has completed seeing a speech therapist, though he joked he should continue doing so.
The crafty winger known for playing with an edge said he isn’t expecting he’ll have to make any changes to his game following the injury. While he said he doesn’t expect there to be any challenges mentally, he said until he takes the ice, he won’t know.
“It’s hard to say before I go on the ice and play a game if it’s going to affect me,” Zuccarello said. “I don’t think about it. All I think about is getting back in shape and getting back to being [game] ready. Nothing more than that.”
The Rangers’ exhibition season begins in less than two weeks with a matchup against the New Jersey Devils on Sept. 21. While he won’t know if he’ll be in the lineup that night at Madison Square Garden, Zuccarello said doesn’t expect anything to prevent him from being available.
“That’s my goal,” Zuccarello said. “Hopefully I’m ready to go right away. Like I said, I feel bad today, but it’s going to take me time to just get back on the ice and the timing and stuff, but it’s the same for everyone.”