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Edmonton Oilers assistant captain Adam Larsson played two periods on a broken leg in the season opener, which is equal parts brave and foolish, gusting more to being tough because that’s how hockey players are wired.
He missed his 17th straight game Friday when the New Jersey Devils, the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2011, was in town. Bad timing, but that’s life. His coach Dave Tippett said Wednesday he’ll be ready in two weeks, which would be somewhere on their five-game road trip, starting in San Jose Nov. 19
Larsson shrugged at that medical update.
“It’s coach’s decision, but I’m hoping a week and half,” he said.
So, maybe their home game Nov. 16 against Dallas. If it’s then, that’s 20 games he’ll have been out.
“I want a couple of practices with the team and full contact, game situations,” he said.
The Quinn Hughes shot broke his fibula but not his spirit.
“I think I’m ahead of schedule, but obviously it’s a bone that takes time to heal,” he said.
When the Vancouver rookie-of-the-year candidate’s snapshot caught Larsson late in the first period Oct. 2, he gutted it out for the rest of the shift, about 30 seconds, then for close to another 40 minutes. On the night, he played 22:19.
What was the rest of the Hughes’ shot shift and game like?
“Painful,” laughed Larsson, who turns 27 next Tuesday.
“Some shots you get the pain fades away on the next shift and the one after that but this time it stuck with me the rest of the game. At the end of the third I could barely skate.
“I had to skip the last two shifts.”
He could barely get over the boards, never mind hunt down Elias Pettersson.
The break was above the skate, more in the ankle area, apparently. Hughes is a far cry from, say, Shea Weber when he’s unloading a shot but it caught Larsson in the wrong spot.
“It wasn’t a bomb but I didn’t have any kind of padding on that spot. There’s not a lot of fat there, it’s just skin and bones. Probably one in 50 times you break it with a shot there,” said Larsson, who skated with his teammates at a practice for the first time Friday morning.
“I kept playing maybe because it was the first game of the year. There was a shift in the third where I got hit, not on the foot or leg, just a regular body-to-body hit … right then I knew there was something more going on,” said Larsson, who had played with Darnell Nurse during camp and in the first game with associate coach Jim Playfair saying he wanted them as his shutdown pair.
Is there any protection he could have been wearing to stop the puck impact? Skate guards?
“Now I’ll have to get more but you can put protection anywhere. I mean, you still want to feel good on the ice so you can play,” he said. So no body armour.
Being out in game one hurts, of course. But Larsson, who has watched Ethan Bear play splendidly alongside Nurse, says it could have been worse.
“It sucks to miss games but it’s better to miss early than right before the playoffs,” he said. “I’ve been trying to stay positive, working very hard off the ice so I’d put myself in position to be comfortable and ready to go (after some hard skating and battle drills),” he said.
Larsson, like everybody, has become a big Bear booster.
“Ethan’s been unreal, impressive to watch,” said Larsson. “He’s playing a lot of heavy minutes but you can tell he’s having fun. He deserves it.”
When Larsson’s ready, he’ll move back into the top four, but maybe with old partner Oscar Klefbom because Tippett doesn’t want to break up Nurse and Bear.
The third pairing would be Matt Benning and Kris Russell with rookie Joel Persson and Brandon Manning as the 7/8. Persson could go to Bakersfield, if they see fit, for awhile, because he’s waiver exempt. He signed when he was 24 years old, which means he doesn’t have to clear waivers for two years or up to 60 NHL games.
Bear has filled the defence hole admirably but the Oilers have missed Larsson’s sometimes nasty, always hard-on-the-puck-carrier work habits. He learned those from Devils Hall of Famer Scott Stevens when Stevens was an assistant coach in New Jersey. Frankly, he’s exactly what the current Devils are missing on their back-end.
Larsson, who lost 10 pounds over the summer with a different training regimen feeling he needed to get quicker not stronger, looked lean even if sitting out has been eating away at him.
Did he have to fight to not put weight on?
“You have to be a little more strict. First week (after the break), I just had salads. Kind of frustrating. Now I’m back (to testing out all the food groups),” said Larsson.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019