TORONTO – Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mark Fraser said he was feeling great Thursday morning, although his face told a different story.
The burly blue-liner’s forehead was swollen, his right eye bloodshot, a gnarly trail of stitches curling from the top of his nose to above his eyebrow.
He met with reporters at a season-ending availability a week after undergoing facial surgery after taking a puck in the face during Toronto’s first-round playoff loss to Boston. Fraser suffered a frontal skull fracture on the shot from Milan Lucic but considers himself lucky it wasn’t more serious.
“Thankfully as far as my injury goes, it could have been a lot worse,” he said in the team’s locker-room at Air Canada Centre. “I’m thankful I have recovered the way I have already.”
Fraser did not suffer a concussion and has not had any vision problems or any other serious issues. The 26-year-old Ottawa native said he expects to make a full recovery.
The six-foot-four, 220-pounder plans to meet regularly with doctors over the next few weeks and does not yet have a firm timeline in place for his off-season routine.
The incident occurred in Game 4 on May 8 at Air Canada Centre. Fraser immediately fell to the ice after he was hit near the Toronto net.
“I was in an incredible amount of pain but I knew that my vision was OK, I knew that it didn’t hit my eye,” he said. “So that was an instant relief while I was on the ice too.”
A trainer came rushing out to assist him. A few seconds later, Fraser was back up and skated off the ice for treatment.
“I saw that there was a lot of blood and a pretty big cut,” he said. “So I don’t think you’re going to help yourself staying on the ice in that situation. Broken legs and dislocated shoulders—perhaps you might need help getting off.
“But this was sort of an emergency laceration. Staying on the ice was not going to help me fix the problem at all.”
Fraser, who had eight assists and 85 penalty minutes in 45 games this season, knew at least 10 stitches were needed but didn’t have an exact number.
He can’t blow his nose for a month and said the headaches are manageable.
“They’re not actually too severe,” Fraser said. “The injury is severe but my pain right now isn’t.”
Fraser does not wear a visor but plans to use one when he gets back to skating and practising in the summer.
He couldn’t travel with the Maple Leafs as they fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a seventh game in Boston. Toronto blew a three-goal lead and eventually lost in overtime.
“I felt very low knowing probably what they were going through, the way the series ended,” Fraser said. “Not being able to be there with them and share that emotion and that feeling. It was one of the most devastating, hardest ways to lose and to watch your team lose.
“The toughest thing for me was just not being able to physically be there, to be a part of it with the guys.”