Holmstrom has been out since April 22, when Calgary’s Craig Conroy hit him with his stick in Detroit’s series-winning victory over the Flames. The left wing had 30 goals and 22 assists during the regular season, but missed the first three games against the Sharks.
Holmstrom lost vision in the eye on the night of the incident, and his sight remained cloudy for a few days while team doctors evaluated him. He wasn’t allowed to skate or work out because the doctors feared the increased blood flow could cause further damage.
“Of course I was scared,” said Holmstrom, who had just one assist in six games against Calgary. “They didn’t know how badly injured the eye was. They didn’t want to get the blood going and hurt the eye.”
Holmstrom, who hadn’t decided whether he’ll wear start wearing a visor, skated Monday in Detroit for the first time since the injury. Though his eye remains exceedingly dilated and sensitive to light, the team is confident he avoided serious injury.
The Sharks lead the series 2-1, and Detroit’s power play is 1-for-10 without Holmstrom in his usual spot in front of the opposing net, where he screens goalies, redirects passes and hassles opposing defenders.
“He’s going to help us,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He does such a good job standing in front of the net.”
An injured forward also plans to return for the Sharks. Centre Mark Smith is expected to be back in their lineup after a patient rehabilitation from a groin injury.
Smith, who had 13 points in 41 regular-season games, spent the final two months of the regular season on injured reserve. But the scrappy forward has a history of playoff success, scoring three goals in the Sharks’ first-round series against Nashville last season.
“The rest definitely did it good,” Smith said of his injury. “They just wanted it to heal up as good as it can, and then get out there and use it.”
Coach Ron Wilson didn’t say who will be scratched for Game 4 in Smith’s favour.
“Smitty will provide some energy,” Wilson said. “This series has been a real grind, and he deserves a chance. He’s always played well in the playoffs.”