Michal Rozsival felt a little apprehensive entering last weekend’s games.
Certainly, the Blackhawks defenseman was emotionally and mentally ready to get back to the lineup. He was physically ready, too, after six months of rehabilitating his fractured left ankle. Still, he was wondering how he would react to back-to-back games.
“You hope, you know, you did everything you could in the rehab process, which I think we did, and I felt great into practices. But going into games is obviously a different situation,” Rozsival said on Monday. “You basically have to go all out, put a lot of stress in that leg and at any given moment you need to. I did feel a little unsure going into it.”
His concerns, however, diminished with each passing shift. Now, instead of thinking about his ankle, Rozsival is just thinking about games and what the rest of this season could bring.
Rozsival played in back-to-back games last weekend, his first games since fracturing his left ankle in Game 4 against the Minnesota Wild last May. It was a long wait for Rozsival, and immediately going in for a back-to-back was a heck of a debut for him. But it all turned out well.
“It was a good challenge; it was a great test for the ankle and for myself,” Rozsival said. “I felt OK, you know? I didn’t feel my best, but OK. Obviously there are still some things I need to work on still, but overall I think I did OK. But most important we won both of the games. That’s what makes me happy the most.”
Rozsival played 13 minutes against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, then close to 14 minutes against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. He said he came out of those games feeling no ill effects.
“As far as my ankle, everything looks fine,” he said. “Everything was OK even on back to back nights, which is a lot for an ankle to come back after six months. But it held up pretty good.”
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Rozsival and Duncan Keith’s return this weekend provided a big boost for the Blackhawks. Keith was back supplying the big minutes. Rozsival gave the Blackhawks a veteran option they’ve been missing and some steadiness on the last pair.
“I liked his game, really appreciate his though process out there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He did some good things, defended well and added experience to our back end as well; a lot of direct plays, patience with the puck.”
Rozsival’s recovery took a while; he finished on the end of the 4-to-6-month window given for the injury. It wasn’t an easy time, from his summer of being able to do very little to the workouts and extra skates he participated in to play again. Now that his focus is back on the game and not his injury, however, all the work was worth it.
“You kind of forget about the thrill of getting ready for an NHL game,” he said. “It’s been a long time; six months is a long time. I’ve been around but it’s not the same. You’re not playing, not preparing. The adrenaline before the hockey game and playing the hockey game and winning hockey the game, it’s really a special feeling. It was great to be back.”