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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Kopecky hoping for good health this season

DETROIT -- Tomas Kopecky hustled on the backcheck as he had done so many other times. It's a big part of why he was … at the age of 26 … finally an established NHL regular. As Kopecky leaned forward for the hit just inside the Detroit Red Wings' blue line, his target -- Columbus forward Manny Malhotra -- went down.

It's a moment that Kopecky prefers not to think about, but can't avoid.

The result of the meeting of Kopecky's leg on Malhotra's body was a buckling that shred the ACL and MCL in the Slovak's left knee.

"I thought about it in the playoffs every day," said Kopecky. "Every day I wondered what I would have done different. I went to hit him and … you know, it's always one of those things you don't want to see. In the playoffs, I was thinking about it a lot. Now, it's over and I don't want to think about it."

That injury happened 77 games into Kopecky's 2007-08 season and shelved him for the entire playoffs. One year earlier, Kopecky missed more than half of the regular season and most of the playoffs with a broken collarbone.

Last year's knee injury, however, left him in street clothes watching his friends win a Stanley Cup. He snuck onto the ice of Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena in skates to take a twirl with the trophy -- his first time on skates after the injury.

It wasn't until two months after that night in Pittsburgh, that Kopecky started skating in earnest back home in Trencin, Slovakia. Beginning in August, Kopecky worked out on and off the ice, but wasn't able to take part in any battle drills as he had always done in the off-season, working out with fellow Slovaks like Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara.

"I think it was more of a mental thing," said Kopecky. :I thought I couldn't push myself to the limit. It was difficult. I was just fooling around."

It wasn't until Kopecky arrived in Detroit at the beginning of September and began skating with his Red Wings teammates at Joe Louis Arena that he got both a verbal and mental green light.

"When doctors told me I could push it more and more, that gave me the confidence," said Kopecky. "Trainers told me I could go all out. I was waiting for that, to get that stone off my heart."

After he had his surgery on Apr. 22, Kopecky was told that it would take 4-6 months for him to return.

The 6-foot-3 forward is still more than two weeks away from the outer limit of that prognosis. But Kopecky is at full speed, having been a full participant at training camp and playing in five of nine preseason games.

That first exhibition game became a relief for Kopecky, who's slated to be a fourth-line winger alongside Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby this winter. That game was also a small flashback to what happened late last season.

Midway through the game, Kopecky hustled on the backcheck as he had done so many times. He made contact with Montreal rookie Mathieu Carle, but this time, it was Carle was ill-fated.
Caught looking at his just-released pass, Carle was hit by Kopecky's shoulder in his head. The Canadien dropped to the ice unconscious and had to leave the game.

Carle's injury wasn't nearly as severe as Kopecky's injury of a year ago. The rookie returned to Joe Louis Arena after hospital tests early enough to join his teammates on their flight home.

But it was a reminder of what could happen on something as nondescript as a backcheck.
"I'm pretty happy the first game is over," said Kopecky. "Hopefully I'm just going to get better and better each game. I have high hopes for this year. My main goal is to stay healthy the whole year."


Anonymous SYF said...

Gotta love this kid's attitude.

He wants to be in Detroit.

October 6, 2008 at 5:04 PM 

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