You see it when the players first return from their summer vacations: a clear complexion. The wounds are healed, the scars are faded and there are no hints of the nicks or abrasions that typically decorate a hockey player’s face during the season. So it seems almost unnatural, nearly three months into the season, to look at Milan Lucic and see not a hint of fresh battle.
“To be honest, my forearms are a little bit sore,” he said as reporters huddled around him in the Ristuccia Arena locker room for the first time in nearly a month since his injury. Lucic hit the ice for the first time this week on his own to test out the sprained ankle, and he incorporated a good portion of stickhandling which left him with aching arms.
But the ankle? No stops and starts yet, and no lateral movement, either. He tried out some laps and is slowly testing the leg to see just how much it can handle. Lucic says he has to be careful, as high ankle sprains have significant setbacks if not carefully treated. One stub of the toe, and he could be adding weeks to his recovery.
He has surely taken a careful approach to recovery — “I’m going to be back soon, don’t worry,” he had said in passing about three weeks ago — but don’t count Lucic out for the Winter Classic just yet. Timeline-wise, it would be right around the time he should be getting back. He has been on the bike, lifting weights, and now he is sure to keep increasing his ice time as he works toward his ultimate return. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll be ready by Jan. 1.
The other good news? Remember that broken finger that was surgically repaired earlier this season? It has gotten an extra month of unexpected healing time, thanks to the ankle injury.
“That’s back to 100 percent,” he said, smiling. It’s clear he’s focusing on the positives from this doctor-visit-ridden season.
Here’s Lucic on his return to the ice.