Milan in the middle: Injured pre-lockout, winger rehabs at team facilities

Milan Michalek is a man in the middle. On one hand, Michalek, the Ottawa Senators star left winger, is now skating regularly with his locked out teammates. Unlike the others, however, Michalek is welcome inside Scotiabank Place.

Milan in the middle: Injured pre-lockout, winger rehabs at team facilities

Milan Michalek is a man in the middle.

On one hand, Michalek, the Ottawa Senators star left winger, is now skating regularly with his locked out teammates. Unlike the others, however, Michalek is welcome inside Scotiabank Place.

While the NHL officially locked out players on Sept. 15, Michalek isn’t among them. That’s because he had surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle on Sept. 11, when NHL players were still under contract to their teams under the old collective bargaining agreement.

Due to his current status, Senators trainers and doctors are making sure his rehabilitation stays on course.

“It’s weird,” Michalek said Tuesday, after leaving the ice at the Kanata Recreational Complex Tuesday, en route to Scotiabank Place. “I’m by myself, with only the trainer. Yes, it’s weird. But that’s how it is and hopefully we’ll all be playing soon.”

It’s difficult to see many positives in the lockout, but here’s one: if the Senators were, as scheduled, in the middle of training camp right now, Michalek would likely have been trying to play through the injury, no doubt slowing him down.

“If it happened during the season, we would probably do the surgery after the season,” said Michalek. “But I saw with the lockout coming, I might as well do it now and get it over with, so it doesn’t bother me during the season.”

Michalek, 27, scored a career high 35 goals, and added 25 assists, last season. Other than Daniel Alfredsson, he’s the only proven high scoring winger the Senators have. Having him healthy will be pivotal for the Senators if and when there is a season.

The injury had been bothering Michalek during the summer, but he originally thought it was a groin issue. After returning to North America from his native Czech Republic, he had an MRI and discovered that the problem was a torn muscle in his abdomen.

The recovery has gone well, so far. Michalek didn’t take part in an end-of-workout scrimmge on Monday and left the ice before the players began 1-on-1 battle drills on Tuesday.

“I’m just skating pretty easy, not doing anything crazy and it should be good in a few weeks,” he said.

Ideally, Michalek would like the NHL lockout to be over when he’s ready to return to game action, but barring some surprising developments when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players’ union leader Donald Fehr meet on Friday, his next competitive action will likely take place in the Czech Republic. The door is open for him to return to his old Czech team, Budejovice. Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec are already back playing for Kladno, drawing large crowds in the process.

“It’s great for the fans at home, they get to see the best (Czech) players back,” he said.

At this point, though, Michalek finds himself in the worst of two worlds.

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