Jonathan Toews came off the ice after the Blackhawks practice on Saturday, feeling good but nevertheless more winded than he wouldve been a few weeks ago.
Its just the lungs that hurt a little bit, said Toews after his third good skate in as many days. The normal kind of convenient practice for guys today was a little tougher on a guy like me.
For a player recovering from a concussion, the immediate recovery period means shutting things down: take it easy, very little exercise and no skating for a while. Its good advice, considering the severity and delicacy of the injury. And once the head does start healing, another fun part begins: getting back in shape.
Professional athletes spend so much time getting into tremendous shape, and its something they struggle to get back when returning from a concussion. Niklas Hjalmarsson is experiencing that, too, as Friday was just his second game since suffering his in early February. The defenseman is feeling great health-wise but said hes still playing cardio catch-up.
I felt that yesterday. The conditioning isnt quite there yet, he said. I havent really been in great shape since the all-star break; Ive been hurt pretty much ever since. Theres a lot of catching up to do.
Hjalmarsson did some sprints at the end of Saturdays practice, skating up and down the red line several times. Marcus Kruger did the same thing in December when he came back from his concussion, going through some tough on-ice workouts with skating and skills coach Kevin Delaney.
Its tough. The conditioning goes away so fast and it takes such a long time to build it up (in the first place), Hjalmarsson said. You just try to work hard on the ice and do a little extra off the ice and hopefully itll be back here real soon.
Toews said its tough, but its just part of the deal with this recovery.
Its the toughest injury for that reason: you cant be active, you have to sit around and do nothing, or as little as possible, he said. They say you can lose it pretty quick but a couple more skates like this, it comes back just as fast, too.
Be it Toews, Hjalmarsson, Steve Montador or anyone else recovering from a head injury, health is the first priority. Losing the conditioning is a tad frustrating, but it comes back again.
You just have to be able to be strong and push yourself through it and know that, when that first game (comes), its not going to be easy, Toews said. That game shape will come.