By Bill Hoppe
The good news, Jason Pominville said, is that he had an entire offseason to recover following a scary postseason incident in which a skate blade sliced a tendon in his leg. The versatile Buffalo Sabres winger never felt any pressure to rush through the long process. Instead, he quietly rehabbed at home in Quebec.
“I didn’t have to force things as if it happened in October and you want to play by January,” Pominville said Tuesday after an informal scrimmage with some teammates at the Northtown Center. “I had time to take my time, let it heal and get myself back to where I want to be.”
With training camp set to open next week, Pominville, who was injured April 22, said he’s “able to do everything” again. He’s just waiting to be cleared to play. Pominville believes he’s ahead of the four-to-six month recovery timetable.
“I’m capable of doing any type of workout, any skate, any battle,” said Pominville, who sports a scar several inches long just above his left ankle.
When James van Riemsdyk’s skate cut Pominville in the corner early in the Sabres’ 4-3 overtime win in Philadelphia, it appeared the injury could be catastrophic. The 28-year-old rushed off the ice without putting any pressure on the leg.
“I didn’t feel the cut, but as soon as I looked at the side of my leg I knew it was bad,” Pominville said. “I couldn’t put weight on it. I knew there was something wrong.”
Pominville usually wears cut-resistant socks, although he didn’t for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
“Those socks wouldn’t have helped because they’re cut-resistant, they’re not cut proof,” he explained.
Pominville won’t make that mistake again, however.
“Now I have those socks and I’ll wear them,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of guys will wear them because of that, too.”
When Pominville got to the trainer’s room and noticed blood, he “knew it was bad right away.”
“I didn’t really want to look at it,” he said.
In the room, ex-backup goalie Patrick Lalime, a scratch, tried to comfort Pominville.
The doctor soon told Pominville he was lucky. While the tendon was sliced 100 percent, the Achilles was spared. An MRI the next day revealed he would need surgery.
“I knew it would be a lot of work; it wouldn’t be easy to get back to where I want to be,” Pominville said. “I had time. That was a good thing.”
Still, watching the Sabres drop the final two tilts of the tight seven-game series was excruciating for Pominville, arguably the team’s top all-around forward. His presence would’ve been vital, especially in Game 6, when the Sabres blew a third-period lead at home and lost 5-4 in overtime.
“Those are the games you play all year for, you want to be a part of,” Pominville said. “It was kind of frustrating and disappointing. You feel like you let the boys down when you’re not there.”
Pominville’s rehab went smoothly. He skated for the first time in late June, and then stayed on the ice for good after a week of other rehab.
“It felt like night and day,” Pominville said about the break between skates. “It was so much better, and then after that I gradually was able to increase and get better and better and better.”
Then, in late July, Pominville’s wife gave birth to a girl, Kaylee, the couple’s second child. They also have a son, Jayden, who was born in 2009.
In addition to that excitement, Pominville’s giddy about the $70 million the Sabres spent on new players this offseason. When he got back to Buffalo last week, he immediately noticed the anticipation and electricity surrounding the team.
“Not only the players, but the city’s excited,” Pominville said. “Guys are showing up early (to skate). New additions to the team are great. This should be a good year. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Winning is fun, and we got to get back to those habits. I think the organization has done everything they could to put the best team on the ice possible, and we got to respond.”