Injured in spring, now healthy NHL stars embrace 2nd chances

Injured in spring, now healthy NHL stars embrace 2nd chances

Seth Jones stood on his surgically repaired right ankle as his Blue Jackets teammates practiced and played without him. That took its toll.

“It gets mentally draining,” Jones said.

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos and Pittsburgh All-Star Jake Guentzel know the feeling.

Like Jones, they were injured late in the NHL season and would have missed part or all of the playoffs had they started in April. Instead, the four-month pandemic shutdown has given them a second chance for them to heal up in time for the rescheduled battle for the Stanley Cup.

“I probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said Stamkos, who underwent core muscle surgery in early March. “You never want to see what’s gone in the world. But from a hockey perspective it gave me a chance to get as healthy as possible and be ready for Game 1. For me personally from a hockey perspective, that was great.”

Being ready for Game 1 under normal circumstances — if Columbus held on to make the playoffs without him — would have been a struggle for Jones. That was the eight-week mark since surgery, with a 8-10 week recovery timeline.

“I really didn’t start feeling back to myself on the ice until about week 13 to 15,” Jones said. “The extra time obviously did pretty good for me.”

The 25-year-old called the situation “a little bit of a blessing in disguise.” Captain Nick Foligno knows having Jones is huge for the Blue Jackets against the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs in the best-of-five qualifying round.

“It would’ve been a lot different had we been playing the playoffs with him on probably one leg,” Foligno said. “To know that he’s feeling good and excited about his opportunity to be able to play at full health I think is a huge boost for our club and something that we don’t want to waste.”

Having Guentzel back is a boost for the Penguins, who open their series against the Montreal Canadiens when the playoffs begin Saturday. The 25-year-old thought his season was over after undergoing right shoulder surgery in late December that carried a 4-6 month recovery time.

Seven months later, he’s good to go.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, so to get this opportunity, I’m pretty happy about it — to get a chance to battle with these guys and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Guentzel said. “From my end, I’m pretty happy that I get this chance to do this.”

Some may still not get the chance.

Carolina defenceman Dougie Hamilton recovered from a broken left leg but has been absent from several recent practices, and his status is in doubt. Teammate Brett Pesce and Columbus forward Josh Anderson would each need his team to advance to at least the conference final to be ready after shoulder surgery.

“Who knows what’s going to happen,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said.

Stamkos knew what to expect from his history of injuries. He felt good skating in a small group with no contact, then “hit a little rut” that caused him to miss the start of training camp and is now on pace to return during round-robin play next week.

“Chalk it up to the ups and downs of going through a rehab,” Stamkos said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

To go far, the Lightning could use a healthy Stamkos filling the net on the power play and leading a deep, talented lineup. Coach Jon Cooper knows Stamkos might take a few games to get his timing back, then he’ll be able to contribute in the way he likely couldn’t have in the spring.

“That’s what we’re looking for him to do: to compete, to lead as our captain, to score when he can and be the responsible player that he’s grown into as the years have gone on,” Cooper said. “He has a big role on our team.”

___

AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed.

___

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Lacombe Food Bank is still seeking donations for non-perishable items. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Fraserway RV donates $20,000 to Lacombe Food Bank

Fraserway RV is Canada’s largest RV dealership and has stores across the country including one in Lacombe.

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

The City of Lacombe hired the consulting company, Moorhouse and Associates, to carry out research for phase one of the Social Master Plan. The plan will help the city to learn what areas need the most support. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
City of Lacombe announces first-ever Social Master Plan

The plan aims to discover what services need the City’s attention over the next five years

On This Spot was first created in Vancouver, B.C. after co-founder Andrew Farris started a blog with the same concept during his travels abroad. Photo courtesy On This Spot.
On This Spot app launches in Lacombe and surrounding municipalities

The app shows residents what the historic city looked like hundreds of years ago

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier tests negative for COVID-19 but will isolate for a week

Kenney said he will isolate until Oct. 29 and, in the meantime, work from home

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

Most Read