Some would say it was almost like opening night for Victor Rask, who played his first game of the season Wednesday for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Not Rask, though.
“I’ve played hockey for a long time,” he said. “I know how to play a hockey game.”
The Swedish center missed all of preseason Wholesale nhl jerseys
and the first 20 games of the regular season because of a freaky injury. He was cut by a blade, but not the blade of a skate.
Rask was slicing into sweet potatoes in the kitchen of his Raleigh condo when the knife slipped, cutting into the last two fingers on his right hand.
“At first, I wasn’t sure how bad it was,” said Rask, who at first simply bandaged up the fingers. “Obviously it was pretty bad.”
Surgery on the hand was performed Sept. 13. The timetable was for Rask to be out until early December and he was placed on the injured non-roster list. But Rask’s recovery has come quicker than expected and he was cleared for contact this week.
On Wednesday, Rask was back in the lineup in the Canes’ 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, centering a line with Phil Di Giuseppe and Warren Foegele. He had 10:32 in ice time, winning four of seven draws and finishing with two shots.
“I thought he looked great,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “He didn’t play much but the shifts he had were productive.
“I think we’ll still probably ease him in a little bit but he looks like he’s right where he needs to be. This was a good step in the right direction.”
Rask, a left-handed shooter, said he doesn’t use the little finger on his right hand — the “pinky,” as he calls it — in holding the stick. That made it easier and quicker, he said, to regain a normal grip.
“I can hold my stick and control it exactly the way I used to,” he said.
Rask’s absence allowed one of his best friends on the team, Lucas Wallmark, a fellow Swede, to solidify his place in the lineup and earn more playing time at center. When Rask was activated Wednesday, the Canes reassigned center Clark Bishop to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.
After Rask’s surgery, Brind’Amour said it would be like the Canes trading for an extra forward when Rask was able to return. And an experienced center, at that.
“Give him a few weeks,” Brind’Amour said Wednesday. “He is a good player. He is one of the guys we were counting on to start the season and it’s been tough not having him for this long.”
The hand surgery wasn’t Rask’s only surgery in 2018. He played part of last season with bad shoulder and underwent surgery in March, resulting in a summer of rehab in Sweden.
Rask, 25, returned to Raleigh saying the shoulder had fully healed and he was ready to atone for a subpar 2017-18 season — 14 goals and 31 points in 71 games. Then, the accident.
“Obviously it (stinks) but it could always have been worse, you know?” Rask said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “But I battled through it. I’ve skated through pretty much the whole time I was injured. My legs are really good.
“If I had a knee injury or something, you can’t skate for a long time. Then when you’re ready you have to start skating and get back in it. Now I’ve been skating the whole time and I’m ready to go.”
Until Wednesday, Rask could only sit and watch the Canes play. “You don’t even practice with the guys for a long time, don’t go on the road,” he said.
Asked where he viewed the away games, Rask said, “At home, on my couch,” sounding like many a Canes fan.
Any screaming at the TV in the privacy of his home? Rask smiled.
“No, just watched it,” he said. “Pretty calm. You know that.”
Rask said there was one positive from the injury. “I’ve learned a lot of new things about fingers,” he said.
As for avoiding the dangers of cooking in the kitchen, he said, “I eat out a lot.”