ARLINGTON, V.A. — For the first time in a long time, Carl Hagelin stepped onto the ice ahead of the Washington Capitals' optional skate on Wednesday. It wasn't a long skate as he took some laps in full gear and a non-contact jersey, but it was one that inspired his teammates.
Hagelin has been set back a couple of times and has been no sranger to injury. However, he refuses to quit, and he's testing the waters and getting prepared to start taking the first steps toward a long road to recovery.
"How good is that to see?" head coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's just out there testing, just seeing where he's at. He's still in the distant future."
Back in March, Hagelin suffered a devastating, career-altering left eye injury when he took a high stick under the visor during routine competition drills to close out practice.
"It's the most pain I've ever been through because the stick hit me right in the eyeball," Hagelin explained in May. "It wasn't any bones around it that really took any of the impact. It was scary. Those first two weeks were some of the toughest in my life, especially earn on when you can't see anything with the eye. It's just total darkness. But now you're over the hump. And I've always said to myself, 'I've been a positive person, an optimistic person. And I need to stay that way and keep pushing for next season.'"
As he worked on getting his depth perception back and adjusting to his changed vision, the Swede's comeback took another blow as he underwent hip surgery.
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Hagelin has been out indefinitely and on the long-term injured reserve. However, the 34-year-old has been around the facility, and he refuses to give up on playing again.
Hagelin hasn't played since Feb. 28. He had three goals and 14 assists in 53 games in 2021-22 prior to his injury. He did skate in September at informal skates prior to his surgery. He has been working off the ice and around the facility, and his teammates and the organization has praised his resilience and what kind of presence he brings.
"He's a positive guy. He's great to have around, and he's great to be around," Laviolette said. So it's nice to see him put the gear on and go out and try today and see where he's at."
"What he's going through is probably so tough for him mentally… but he's such a positive guy," Nicklas Backstrom, who is working his way back from hip resurfacing surgery, added of Hagelin back in May. "He's going to get through this and he's going to get stronger."