Daniel Carcillo had a lot of time on his hands this past year.
His last on-ice hit, on Jan. 2, 2012, was a painful one in two ways. Not only did he get a seven-game suspension for boarding Edmontons Tom Gilbert, but he also suffered a season-ending knee injury. The reconstructive surgery for that left knee was one year ago today.
Couple all that with four months worth of a lockout, and its been one long year for Carcillo. But the Blackhawks instigator used the time constructively, and not just rehabbing his knee.
I had a lot of time to myself and I looked at certain things I was doing in my life and decided to make changes, with and away from training, Carcillo said. It was a good reflection period. And it was good to grow physically and mentally.
Carcillo has worked on a few things during this long layoff, but he and the Blackhawks are still looking for him to keep that edge when the team opens its regular season Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Carcillo was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa throughout camp, a season after starting on the second line with Hossa and Patrick Kane. On that second line, he was agitating and, for the most part, kept on the right side of that edge.
Cars is an energy player, Hossa said. Basically, he can go hard to the net and get extra room for the chances, so its going to work out great for us. He gets his feet going and hes really a huge key in our line because he makes room for us.
The Blackhawks hope he does the same with Toews and Hossa.
He probably thinks won the lottery being with those two, coach Joel Quenneville said. We like his presence with that group. He started last year with Kaner and Hoss, and he was successful prior to injury. We want him to be a distraction for the goalie, be hard and be simple. Hes excited about being back.
Indeed, he is. Carcillo was skating with the Blackhawks in their informal workouts early in the fall. But once he was cleared, he was playing the waiting game just like everyone else. It wasnt always easy, before, during and after rehabbing that knee.
When something like that happens to you, you feel like you can go one or two ways: you sit and sulk about it or use it to drive you, said Carcillo, whos included meditation in his daily routines. I used (the time) to make changes in my life and its been good. When you have an injury like that, you just focus on yourself a lot more, you know? Im just glad to be back around the guys and be in this environment again.
And about that knee: it passed its first test on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks scrimmaged against themselves and several Rockford players. Physically, Carcillo is ready to go.
Im ready for the year, he said. That was a good test (Wednesday), and Im sure Saturday will be another one. Its just about getting back to being fast, being better.
And as far as the other changes, does that mean well see a calmer Carcillo?
I dont think so, he said. But maybe more in control, with more focused energy.