After Long Recovery From Shot To Face, Carlson Ready For ‘Nerve-Wracking’ But Exciting Return
For John Carlson, Thursday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks will be different than the 917 other games he’s played in his star-studded career as he takes the ice for the first time since suffering a fractured skull and severed temporal artery.
WASHINGTON — For John Carlson, Thursday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks will be different than the 917 other games he’s played in his star-studded career, filled with nerves he hasn’t felt since making his NHL debut in 2009.
Carlson will make his return from a one-in-a-million injury that happened exactly three months ago when a Brenden Dillon one-timer struck Carlson in the face, fracturing his skull and cutting the temporal artery in his head. After the medical team rushed to stop the severe bleeding, he was taken to a hospital for further testing and evaluation and released a day later with the news that he would be able to play again. However, doubt still lingered that he may be able to return this season.
“I’m sure at some point I had [doubts], but like most everyone else in here, I would imagine we’re pretty goal-oriented people,” Carlson said, adding, “I had a goal to come back if it was safely possible, and that’s where I’m at.”
With 10 games left to go in the regular season, Carlson’s return means a lot to the group, which has struggled greatly without him in the mix and is looking from the outside in with hopes of still gaining ground and getting back into playoff position. Washington is 15-21-6 with No. 74 on the sidelines this season. For Carlson, not being able to play and having to sit and watch, along with his timetable being unknown for a lengthy period of time, made the rehabilitation more difficult.
“With no return date, it makes it pretty miserable for anyone… I think if you don’t have something that you’re striving for, it makes it a lot more difficult,” Carlson said, adding, “You have to have a goal, I think mentally it’s just a lot easier on yourself to work towards something instead of just kind of working hard and hoping one day they tapped me on the shoulder and [said], ‘Okay, now you can play.'”
The 33-year-old’s rehab process included skating on his own early in the mornings with coach Wendy Marco. After that, he got some time stickhandling and practicing on his own before joining the group as a non-contact participant. On Monday, he upgraded to full contact and got some reps in before being cleared to play.
Getting his timing back and transitioning back to game speed will be difficult for Carlson, and he also admitted that shots, errant pucks and high sticks all present concerns. However, he is ready to get back into his regular routine and is eager to move on from a night that has weighed heavily on his shoulders.
“Those are all nerve-wracking things regardless of anything, and you can’t discount that,” Carlson pointed out. “Just different situations, you have to be in it to either: A) know how you feel or B), return to normal. So that’s where I’m at.”
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.