Michalek moving closer to return to Sens lineup
Sens forward says it's 'possible' he could be back for Friday road test with Canes
|Senators winger Milan Michalek says "it's possible" he may he recovered well enough from his concussion to return to the lineup for Friday's road game against the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. (Getty Images).
After hitting the ice for practice with his teammates earlier today at Scotiabank Place, the Senators forward said it's 'possible' he could return to the lineup Friday, when Ottawa visits the Carolina Hurricanes in its final game before the two-day league-wide Christmas break.
Michalek, who suffered the third concussion of his career when collided head on with teammate Erik Karlsson during a 3-2 road victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 13, wore a 'no-contact' grey jersey during today's on-ice session. But afterward, the 27-year-old Czech winger spoke optimistically about an impending return to the lineup.
"It's possible that I could (play Friday)," Michalek told reporters, adding it's "probably unlikely" he'd be ready for Thursday, when the Florida Panthers pay their second and final visit of the season to Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200). "I just want to see how it’s going to be tomorrow, because this was just my first time back practising with the guys and I skated pretty hard. And my conditioning has to be better, too.
"I don’t know if I’ll be playing tomorrow, (Friday) or after Christmas. It all depends on how I’m going to feel tomorrow."
Since the freakish mishap against the Sabres, Michalek said he's been taking it "day by day" in his recovery. While he whacked his head hard on the ice, he admitted this concussion "feels better" than the previous two.
"I was more energetic and alert," said Michalek. "I've had good days, three or four in a row ... but you never know how it's going to be with a concussion."
On the night Michalek went down, he scored his 19th goal of the season to seize the National Hockey League lead. Since then, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning has hit the 20-goal plateau, but that's only one better than the Senators sniper.
While Senators head coach Paul MacLean is anxious to get one of the league's top goal getters back into the mix, he said neither the Senators nor Michalek plan to make it happen untl all the necessary baseline tests and league-mandated protocols are met.
"All I know is when you’ve got 19 goals out of your lineup and he’s leading the league, and he says he can play, you’d probably like to have him in your lineup," said MacLean. "But again, we have to be careful and Milan has to be careful. We’re not just going to put him in just to put him in so he can get 20 (goals) by Christmas.
"When all those (tests) say he can go, then he’ll go."
While Michalek is on the verge of a return, the Senators have another concussion issue to deal with after losing forward Jesse Winchester during Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Sabres at Scotiabank Place. He was run into the boards from behind by Buffalo's Paul Gaustad in the first period and didn't return.
Winchester was suffering from concussion symptoms this morning and is day-to-day.
"He’s here today, but he still has headaches and everything that goes with it," said MacLean.
Around the boards
Craig Anderson, who played solidly in limiting the Sabres to a single goal on Tuesday night, will get the goaltending start Thursday against the Panthers ... Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for the game, including 300 in the Coke Zero Zone. Less than 6,500 tickets in total are left for the next seven Senators home games ... Michalek is one of five Senators on the ballot for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, set for Jan 29 at Scotiabank Place. Two of them — captain Daniel Alfredsson, who ranks second among forwards, and Erik Karlsson, the leading vote-getter among defenceman — currently hold down starting positions for the game, with Jason Spezza owning the fourth-highest forward votes. Sergei Gonchar stands sixth among blueliners. To support your Senators, log on to vote.nhl.com or text a player's last name to 81812. Fan balloting closes on Jan. 4.