It's been an uphill battle for forward Vinny Prospal all season long, trying to recover from the knee surgery he underwent in the off-season. He has not played in a single game yet this year, as the furthest he has gotten before suffering a setback is practicing with the team. But Saturday's skate with the club was a bit different for Prospal, since this time he said there was no pain in his knee while out on the ice. Sunday - the dreaded "day after" - may have been a different story, but this weekend's progress was good news for the 35-year-old Czech native.
Head coach John Tortorella was very upbeat about Prospal when discussing the matter with Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants:
"Vinny’s feeling good, we’ll see how it goes," Tortorella said. "After the All-Star break, we’ll see how it reacts and go from there."
Prospal himself, on the other hand, was very careful about what he said, but seemed somewhat encouraged at the very least:
"I don’t want to say anything because I’ve felt OK before," Prospal added. "The last six, seven days, I’ve been able to push off a lot harder than it used to be.
"It’s been a tough year, I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before," said Prospal. "I don’t want to jinx it. I can’t say how it will be tomorrow but I’ve been very happy with the last few days."
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Vinny finished last season with 58 points in 75 games played, which was good for second overall on the Rangers in scoring. He played awfully well with star winger Marian Gaborik and was also an impact player on special teams. At the time, he was the team's alternate captain and nothing brought life to that bench better than Prospal's intensity.
I think the concern moving forward is that if Prospal does return this season, there is a chance he will not be the same player he was last year. He has not played in an NHL game in nearly ten months, plus knee surgery can have a permanent impact on a person, no matter how hard you work to get them back to 100 percent.
But that stuff cannot be Prospal's focus at this point in time. He simply has to take things day-by-day and continue to put weight on his knees in practice to see how they react. He is a fighter, so I have a feeling that he will return sometime later in the season, and even if it is only for the playoffs, that is perfectly fine with me.
Prospal is the type of guy you would love to have on your team, whether he can contribute a lot or a little, because he is pure heart and soul and a hell of a leader to boot. With all of the young kids now in the lineup, Prospal is a great personality to have around.
Let's keep our fingers crossed for good ol' Mr. Intensity.