When Tyler Graovac spoke for the first time on Thursday since undergoing successful abdominal surgery on Nov. 3, there was a decided look of relief on his face.
Graovac played in the Wild's season-opener on Oct. 8 against the Colorado Avalanche, and then was held out with a groin injury. Eventually, when his status didn't progress as planned, he had the surgery.
"I feel so much better," Graovac said. "I have a couple of battle wounds, but my first game back, professional players will say, 'You can't get too high, you can't get too low,' but I'm going to really enjoy it. That's for sure."
He used words "patient" and "process" when describing what's been his past four weeks of a six-week protocol.
"The fundamentals of core workouts, and core training and strengthening, and a little massage therapy," he said. "Just eating well, and trying to get my weight back—(Graovac said he lost about six or seven pounds)—, and drinking a lot of milk. It's been four weeks—day 30 to be honest—and I'm counting down the days."
Given the nature of his surgery, the steps taken post-op began with simply getting out of bed.
"This is kind of like my fifth step," Graovac said after taking part in morning skate on Thursday prior to the Wild's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. "The first step was being able to walk on the treadmill four weeks ago.
"It's been such a difficult injury, to be honest, and I'm learning a lot more about my body. I guess that's the positive out of it, I can be a better professional down the road."
He's two-thirds of the way through the six weeks, but Graovac wasn't ready to put a timeline or target date on his calendar as of yet.
"I have no problem at all going down to Iowa," he said. "I'll play anywhere as long as I'm healthy, and that's the biggest thing for me: getting to 100 percent, and feeling really good every stride. If I'm down in Iowa, I work my way back up like I have, and I know where I fit, I know where I belong, and I'll just do my best to get to that point."
Likewise, the Wild has no concrete plan for Graovac, waiting until he's further along in his recovery to lay one out.
"We don't have a plan there, but he's obviously a little ways away there," Head Coach Mike Yeo said after Graovac practiced on Wednesday. "It's good that he's back with our group, and he's moving, but you can tell that he's a ways away here."
The patience is something Graovac said he's gotten better with as he's worked to get back to full strength.
"I got to a point I had to call my parents to get down here, and just help me out," he said. "I had so much spare time to just do my Christmas shopping and stuff like that.
"It feels like forever, but it's only been four weeks, and the progress has been unbelievable."