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Patrik Nemeth Determined and Patient as He Works His Way Back from Injury

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

When Patrik Nemeth went out with an arm laceration in the middle of October, the Stars said he would miss the rest of the regular season. But Nemeth is working hard, and he is determined to get back in the lineup sooner than projected.

“I think I can play more this year,” Nemeth said.

And Stars coach Lindy Ruff appreciates what he sees and hears from Nemeth, who has been out of action since the fifth game of the season.

“He’s bound and determined to make the doctor’s prognosis wrong. He’s even frustrated that the doctor could be wrong with how long it should take. I always find that a good thing,” Ruff said. “He feels he should be able to go harder and the recommendation is to make sure everything is healed properly first, which I understand all that, but I like what he’s doing. I like how hard he’s working. That type of attitude is contagious, and it’s something you want around your team.”

While Nemeth is determined to get back before the season is over, he is displaying some patience by being a good patient and listening to doctors.

“I think I am doing really good. It’ still a process,” Nemeth said. “Even if I am feeling good, there is still a timeline. It’s got to heal, so I am not in charge of when I can do certain things. It’s all up to the surgeon; it’s his decision. I am just doing things I can do.”

The 22-year-old defenseman suffered the injury on the very first shift of the Oct. 18 game against Philadelphia. He and Flyers forward R.J. Umberger got tangled up near the benches, and Umberger’s skate came up and cut Nemeth’s arm. The Dallas defenseman underwent surgery the next day to repair the damage.

“There were tendons that were cut and a couple of muscles. It was deep, too. It was pretty serious,” Nemeth said a couple weeks after the surgery. “I was lucky because it didn’t cut any arteries or nerves really. That’s the positive part.”

Three months later, there has been a lot of progress. He’s been skating for some time, and he’s been doing some stickhandling as well. There’s more work to be done, but he’s come a long way.

“It was tough at the beginning,” Nemeth said at the Stars practice facility late last week. “At least I can skate now, stickhandle and workout more. Before, all I could do was sit on the bike. Now, I feel progress. When you feel progress and you are moving forward, then it is not too bad.”

As for using the arm in everyday life, everything is just about back to normal. That’s a positive for a guy who couldn’t tie his shoes a few months ago.

“I can do everything I could before,” he said. “I can’t lift heavy weights, but other than that it is completely normal.”

Nemeth has missed a lot of playing time. Tuesday’s game was the 41st he has missed due to the injury. But the Stars feel he is making good use of the time while he recovers. He’s watching games, studying video and learning. And that should pay some dividends when he does return.

“I think what’s important is he’s around the team, he’s watching the games,” Ruff said. “I think sitting upstairs, understanding the gap we want, where he can gap up, sometimes where he needs to play a little safer. … [He’s able] to watch those little plays, and he’s able to watch all that. He made some big strides at the end of last year. He was a good player for us in the playoffs.”

And Nemeth has his sights on being a player again for the Stars this season. There’s still no definitive timeline, but he is combining hard work, optimism and patience as he strives to reach his goal.

“I am trying not to cross the line too much. It’s a pretty serious injury, so I don’t want to destroy anything that [the doctor] has done,” Nemeth said. “I don’t think he wants to say too much [about a timeline]. If he sets a date, then I will probably try to push it too much. I think I can play more this year. There is definitely hope for that. The healing has gone really well thus far, and I don’t want to set back anything. But so far, so good.”

Stars assign Jokipakka, Oleksiak to AHL

The Stars assigned defensemen Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars of the AHL on Wednesday. With Dallas now in the All-Star break until early next week, it gives Jokipakka and Oleksiak an opportunity to get some playing time with Texas, which has games Friday and Saturday in Cedar Park.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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