Last season saw several injuries to multiple players throughout the course of the year. The off-season allowed these players time to recover and rehabilitate their injuries in order to be healthy for training camp and the 2013-14 NHL season. Some of these players have not touched the ice in days, weeks or months and have to prove to the team and staff that they are ready to play.
"Right now, everybody is right on schedule," said Jarmo Kekelainen. "We're happy with the progress that has been made."
Listed below are a few of the players to watch as they prepare for the upcoming season while recovering from injury.
After arriving in Columbus on April 3 and playing 12 games for the Blue Jackets, Gaborik had surgery in May to fix an abdominal injury. He spent about four weeks recovering before he resumed his off-season training to prepare for the start of training camp and the upcoming season.
"Gaborik is going to be healthy to start the training camp," said Kekalainen. "He has gone through his operation and is feeling great. He’s excited about the full year and about getting a fresh start here for a fresh new season. He’s a proven goal scorer. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t get back on the level where he has been. He’s a young man in his best years and in his best shape and we are looking forward to him having a healthy year.”
In the biggest off-season signing of the free agency period for the Blue Jackets, Horton required surgery on his shoulder for an injury sustained during the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. The surgery was successful, but requires four to six months of rehabilitation and recovery before he can take the ice in a Blue Jackets jersey.
“With Nathan Horton, it is very difficult to pick a date as to when he’s going to come back," said president of hockey operations John Davidson. "We’re not going to do that. Knowing that everything has gone well up to this point and that his rehabilitation is right on schedule, we’re pleased with what has gone on with Horton’s shoulder and we just look forward to the day he can get back into the lineup.”
Atkinson suffered a high ankle sprain--an injury Kekalainen called "one of the worst injuries in hockey" due to the persistent and pesky nature of the injury. He suffered the injury in January, but continued to suffer from it well into April. The off-season gave Atkinson the much-needed time to recover and should be prepared for the start of training camp.
“Cam Atkinson is a player that everyone knows is not the biggest guy in the world, so he’s going to need his quickness," said Kekalainen. "He’s 100 percent now and is ready to go again. He’s going to have all his quickness and that speed, skill and ability to weave through the traffic and play one-on-one with the bigger players is exceptional. It is what makes him a great player in this league. We’re going to see a difference with his play and his ability to create offense this season.”
In early August, Prout had a successful surgery done to repair a torn abdominal muscle after weeks of soreness. He skated this week during informal workouts and could play in a few early games because his recovery is progressing more quickly than expected.
"Prout is a little bit ahead of schedule, but we don’t want to get anymore ahead of schedule than what is safe," said Kekalainen. "He should definitely be ready for the start of the regular season, maybe even for the start of some of the exhibition games.”
After he was drafted second overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, Murray suffered a dislocated shoulder back in November 2012. He was not cleared for contact until the 2013 Development Camp back in July. In his first games since he suffered the injury, he impressed John Davidson and Kekalainen with his performance at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City. Murray could earn himself a Blue Jackets roster spot come training camp.
"To see Ryan Murray play there at the level he played was good for us to watch," said Davidson. "It was good for him to have that success. He was really good."
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