Donovan eyeing early return
Gritty Sens forward could be a week away from rejoining team
|Forward Shean Donovan never doubted he'd make a return to the Sens lineup this season after suffering a serious knee injury on Nov. 20 (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Shean Donovan isn't quite ready yet to treat the fans at Scotiabank Place to another one of his trademark high-energy efforts on the ice.
But just a little more than a month after tearing two ligaments in his right knee, the Ottawa Senators forward is already pointing toward his return to the lineup. Further evidence of that progress arrived earlier today, when Donovan joined his teammates for the pre-game skate in advance of tonight's home matchup with the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).
"Today was my first day out with the boys and it felt good," said Donovan. "Tomorrow’s probably going to be more of a practice, getting into some contact and doing some battles and stuff like that. (The knee) feels stable and it feels good. It’s just a matter of maybe giving it a few more days."
While the Senators are still expecting goaltender Pascal Leclaire (fractured cheekbone) and forward Chris Neil (left knee) to be ready for Wednesday's road test against the Pittsburgh Penguins, head coach Cory Clouston was smiling about the possibility of also having Donovan available in "probably a week."
"That’s the thing with knees. You just don’t know," said Clouston. "Some guys heal a lot quicker than others. Obviously, he’s one of them. He skated the last few days with Luke (assistant coach Richardson) and responded very well. This morning, he was good. As long as he keeps progressing the way he has, he's probably a week (away). Maybe 10 days at the most."
When Donovan first suffered the injury on Nov. 20 (on a knee-on-knee hit from Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins), he was ruled out for six to eight weeks. Nobody expected his return to happen so quickly, though the gritty forward always hoped for the best. Then again, with the help of two fellow "Carleton Place boys" – Senators head therapist Gerry Townend and strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz – he knew he was in the best possible hands.
"You’ve just got to stay positive," he said. "I never really let myself ever think that I’d be out too long. People say different things, but I just know that I felt good and strong. It was just a matter of (time). Honestly, we’re pretty lucky to have Gerry and Schwarzy ... they took care of me (and) they give me confidence and stuff.
"I do feel good. The first time I got on the ice and went hard and felt good, that was a big relief off my shoulders, to know that I could get back. Now I just want to get stronger and stronger."
Donovan, who confirmed he suffered tears to both the ACL and MCL in his right knee, said surgery was never an option for him.
"I kind of knew at my age – I’m going to be 35 in a month – that if you have surgery, you’re done (playing) for six months and you could be out for a year and a half," said Donovan. "That does nothing for your hockey career at that age. I knew at the time, if there was any chance of me playing again this year, that I had to heal it up.
He's also seen plenty of examples of players still competing in the National Hockey League with the type of ACL injury he suffered.
"I’ve torn it before, I guess. I just tore it a little bit more," he said. "But Steve Yzerman and lots of different players, they’ve played without ACLs and stuff like that. You just learn to build your knee around it and compensate. It’s just a matter of balance and stuff, and (Townend and Schwarz) have done a lot of work with that. It’s just mental."
Now he can't wait to get back into the fray and help his teammates, who hope tonight to rebound from a pair of 4-3 shootout losses to the Bruins earlier this season.
"When you’re part of a team like this with good guys, you just honestly want to get back quick and be in the mix," he said. "It’s fun when they win but to be in the room when they win, it’s even (more) fun."
Around the boards
Brian Elliott (9-8-3) returns to the Senators net tonight for his 18th start of the season ... The Ottawa lines during the pre-game skate: Milan Michalek-Jesse Winchester-Daniel Alfredsson; Peter Regin-Mike Fisher-Alex Kovalev; Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Jonathan Cheechoo; Chris Campoli-Josh Hennessy-Ryan Shannon ... Fewer than 750 tickets remain for tonight's game, the Senators' last at Scotiabank Place before the Christmas break.