Corey Tropp is ready to make another comeback. He’s been with the Sabres all year, but is currently on the non-roster injured list as he recovers from a broken jaw.
Tropp said that he’s taking it one day at a time and that it’s ultimately up to the coaching staff to make the decision on when he’ll be back in the lineup. Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice at First Niagara Center that Tropp could possibly return for team’s game on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks.
The broken jaw is not the first major injury he’s had to recover from in the last 12 months.
Tropp sustained a knee injury in the first game of the 2012-13 season with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. He missed 72 games but returned to the lineup at the end of the year and was able to get a good sense of where he was physically after the injury.
He worked over the summer to improve on all aspects of his game, particularly his skating. Then he fought with Maple Leafs forward Jamie Devane in the Sabres preseason game on Sept. 22 and broke his jaw. To say he's looking forward to getting back on the ice would be an understatement.
“It’s been a real humbling experience,” Tropp said. “It definitely makes you appreciate the game way more. It’s definitely something that when it does happen [playing again], I’m going to be real excited and it’s going to be constant effort like usual and continue to push forward. Hopefully a couple of years down the road, when I look at this last year, [I can] just look at it as a bump in the road.”
WATCH: COREY TROPP INTERVIEW
Tropp has been skating with the team over the last week or so, but Tuesday marked the first practice in which he did not wear a red non-contact jersey. He still has to be fully cleared by the team’s medical staff and will miss the team’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
He hasn’t played in a regular-season NHL game since the end of the 2011-12 season.
“I joked I might be a little bit emotional because it’s kind of been through hell and back to get back into an NHL game,” he said. “There are some days when you sit there and wonder if it’s ever going to happen again or if you’re going to get back there.”
However, he said he’s been working on staying positive and trying to improve in all aspects of his game while he’s been sidelined.
“When that night comes that I do get back in there, it’s going to be pretty special,” he said. “It’s going to be a special feeling.”
Rolston can see that Tropp is itching to get back into a game.
“I think he’s real hungry. He’s a hungry player to start,” Rolston said. “We were talking out there, you take for granted your health sometimes and he’s had a tough year-and-a-half really. So I think his hunger to be back and you can just tell the energy that he has out there that he’s ready to go.”
Tropp skated as an extra forward at practice, rotating in and out of a line that featured Cody Hodgson, Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis.
Moulson skated in his first game with the Sabres on Monday after being acquired from the New York Islanders for Thomas Vanek.
He made quite the first impression, scoring two goals on that line with Hodgson and Ennis. Moulson worked with them again in practice on Tuesday and in some power-play drills as well.
“It’s good to get as many reps as you can with new guys and understand how they play,” Moulson said. “I feel like I’m a guy who tries to read off other players and get open for them and try to figure out what they’re trying to do out there. So the more practices, the better.”
GREAT SEATS AVAILABLE FOR SATURDAY'S GAME VS. ANAHEIM
Moulson made himself pretty open for Ennis at the start of the game Monday. His first goal, which came 3:26 into the game, was the result of a heads-up play by Ennis on the rush. As Ennis skated in down the left wing, he looked to take a slap shot, but then fed the puck over to Moulson in the slot.
Moulson made no mistake, capitalizing on his first shot in a Sabres uniform.
“I was going to shoot it originally and then I saw Matty kind of eyed up and I saw his stick and I was thinking if I could hit him for a goal, it would be a nice way to start,” Ennis said. “He did a good job opening up for me. That was a goal scorer’s move by him.”
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Steve Ott – 82 Marcus Foligno – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
22 Johan Larsson – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
78 Corey Tropp – 36 Patrick Kaleta
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
61 Nikita Zadorov – 57 Tyler Myers
20 Henrik Tallinder – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
32 John Scott – 4 Jamie McBain
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth