It was little more than two weeks ago that the Calgary Flames announced the devastating loss of Johnny Gaudreau for six weeks due to a fractured finger. However, after just 10 games on the shelf, ‘Johnny Hockey’ is set to make his return.
Gaudreau, 23, had to undergo surgery that required screws being put into his finger in order to heal the ailment, but it appears to have healed well ahead of schedule. Gaudreau himself announced he would be returning to the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, saying that he’s definitely ready to get back into action.
"I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it,” Gaudreau said, according to NHL.com. “They keep tell me it's going to be harder to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I'm excited to finally get out there.”
Gaudreau, who has five goals and 11 points in 17 games, said the only real concern for a time was his ability to take slap shots and one-timers. He got past that two or three days ago, he said, and didn’t foresee any issues with his ability to play. That’s a good thing, because no Flame is quite as dynamic as Gaudreau, and he’s looking to get back to the nearly point-per-game player he was during the 2015-16 campaign.
What’s maybe most remarkable, though, is that Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said this actually may a later return for Gaudreau than they had originally thought, even after the six-week timeline for return was announced. According to NHL.com, Gulutzan said he thought Gaudreau was ready to go at least a few games back.
"He's been champing at the bit forever to play,” Gulutzan said. “He really wanted to play. Kudos to him. He went through some pain early with that finger. A few nights there, if anybody's had a broken finger with screws in it, there were a few nights he didn't sleep. He worked real hard.”
Gulutzan added that Gaudreau should be in game shape, too, because the coaching staff has skated the young winger hard in the days leading up to Sunday’s game.
There is some fallout from the injury, though, but only in that Gaudreau will be looking a bit different on the ice.
Since Gaudreau broke his finger, a break which occurred on a slash from Eric Staal in a game where Gaudreau was hacked at more than a dozen times, there has been debate about the legality of the hacks on the winger and talk about whether he was wearing gloves with enough protection for the stick work that can take place over the course of a game. The former is still up for discussion, but the latter looks as though it has been taken care of.
Shortly after Gaudreau was announced to come back into the lineup, the Flames showed off Gaudreau’s new gloves, which are bulked up on the backside of the hand.
“They’re different,” Gaudreau said. “A lot more padding. That was one of the protocols for me being able to play tonight, wearing those blocker pads. It’ll take a little time to get used to, but I think it’s going to help me in the long run.”
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