Morrow's wrist healing, on target to return in late March
While other teams around the NHL are looking to add impact players in advance of the Feb. 27 trade deadline, and the Dallas Stars have already acquired Ladislav Nagy from Phoenix earlier this week, there is another player the Stars look forward to joining their lineup late in the season: winger Brenden Morrow. Morrow, out since Dec. 26 with lacerated tendons in his wrist, will undoubtedly give the club a major lift when he returns some time in late March.
"We're on schedule, if not a little bit ahead of schedule, so things are going good," said Morrow, who has missed 20 games and counting. "I'm starting to get my conditioning back, I'm skating again. I still think I'm about five weeks away yet, so I got plenty of time to get my legs back under me, but the wrist is doing good. I think we're getting near the end of the healing stage, now we just have to try and get the strength back."
The injury Morrow suffered that night in Chicago was a scary reminder of how dangerous a sport can be when the participants are all wearing sharpened blades on their feet. While down on the ice, another player inadvertently skated over Morrow's forearm. The cut was deep enough to sever several tendons leading to his wrist and fingers.
"I knew right away I was cut, I didn't know how bad," Morrow said. "I don't know exactly where on my arm it happened. I don't know enough of the anatomy to know my tendons were in there and stuff like that, but I knew I was cut. I felt the heat right away so I know that's usually when blood's coming."
Morrow underwent surgery that night in Chicago before returning to Dallas to continue the healing process, and has been under continual supervision since to make sure the wrist progresses.
"A specialist came in and did a really, really good job," Morrow said of the surgery. "The specialist here I'm seeing, he said he'd be very happy with his work if it was him that did it, so I can't thank everyone enough that was involved that helped put things back together. They did a tremendous job."
"The physicians in Chicago and the staff here in Dallas have been treating him," added Stars head athletic trainer Dave Surprenant. "Any time you have tendons lacerated or cut, it's a severe injury, but we fully anticipate Brenden making a full recovery and playing a long time." These types of injuries can be so serious, and sometimes career-threatening, that Morrow was actually relieved when told that he'd miss only' 12 weeks or so.
"I was happy it wasn't worse," Morrow said. "I've heard of guys in the past with tendon damage, Donald Audette, an ex-teammate, that pretty much ended the career of some people. When I found out it was 12 weeks, it was disappointing, but the first thing I did was look at the schedule and I saw there was about 10-12 games left in the season, so it could've been worse. I looked at the positives and kind of circled that day on the calendar when I'll be back, and that's what keeps driving me. It's good to know that I'm going to be back and I'm going to be healthy and I'm going to try and help this team win."
As the wrist heals and therapy continues, Morrow has begun working out and skating again in order to keep himself in good physical condition. "He's a great patient, he's complying to everything that we ask him to do," Surprenant said. "He's starting to work out, so that even though the laceration happened to his forearm, we still got the rest of his body that we have to keep in shape, so when the wrist is ready to go, the rest of the body is ready to go. J.J. McQueen, our strength coach, is working diligently to get the rest of the body up and running, and at the same time, the therapists are working on his wrist with myself, and hopefully the two will meet and we'll get him back playing here soon."
Besides not actually playing, one of the more difficult aspects of dealing with a long-term injury is adjusting to not being a part of all team activities. Obviously, Morrow hasn't been on the ice with his teammates in quite awhile, and he also doesn't travel with them on the road.
"That's kind of the frustrating part," Morrow acknowledged. "You don't do road trips. They'd rather have you out here in Frisco (at the Stars' practice facility). You don't go downtown for the morning skate on game day. As much as you can, you try and be around it. You get in the gym an hour before they skate, you get to see them for 15 minutes, but it's not the same as the everyday interaction that you get with your teammates. That's kind of the bad part of it."
"You feel for them, it's hard being out," noted defenseman Philippe Boucher of Morrow and the other players faced with lengthy absences, including Matthew Barnaby and Steve Ott. "I've been through it a few times, being out for an extended period with injuries. It's not an easy time. They're around, they try to keep it loose, have fun with the guys and we see them at the games, we see them here at practice. You want nothing but the best for those guys who've been out awhile, to be able to get back to the team and help out for the playoff run. That's why they're in the gym all the time, that's why they keep working hard all the time." There's no question that Morrow will be an important addition to the Stars when he returns. On a team that has had some difficulty scoring, Morrow still ranks tied-for-sixth on the club with 10 goals and is also sixth in power play tallies with six, in just 28 games. The captain's leadership and grit has also been missed.
"I'm thinking third week of March, somewhere around there," Morrow said of his expected timetable to return. "We got a big road trip against Anaheim, LA, so I'm kind of targeting that week in March."
"It's a time issue that we're working on right now to allow everything to heal and gain strength so that he can be productive," Surprenant cautioned. "That timetable is moving forward. I can't tell you when he's going to be back, because I don't think anybody really knows."
The Stars embark on a three-game Pacific Division tour when they visit Los Angeles March 21, Anaheim March 23 and Phoenix on March 24. If Morrow rejoins the lineup for the Kings contest, that would give him 10 regular season games to get back up to speed before the playoffs begin. While nothing is guaranteed, that would indeed provide a big boost to the club.