THE CANADIAN PRESS
Brandonite Matt Calvert (11) celebrates his goal with his Columbus Blue Jackets teammates in Vancouver on Nov. 22.
With training camp and the early part of his season hindered by an abdominal injury that eventually needed surgery, Brandonite Matt Calvert has been forced to play himself into game shape with the Columbus Blue Jackets the last couple of weeks.
After being in and out of action during training camp, the former Brandon Wheat Kings co-captain played the first three games of the National Hockey League season, but was then sidelined for six weeks.
His return on Nov. 22 was the start of a trial by fire as he went on to play five games in the next nine days.
"I played quite a bit in those games, so it was quite the welcome back," said Calvert, who got 14 minutes of ice time in his return and worked his way up to 19 minutes by the end of the stretch. "It got me in shape anyways … and I think this week with some practice time, I’m getting stronger and my endurance is building, so it’s starting to feel a lot better now."
Calvert has a goal, three assists and seven penalty minutes in his 10 games this season, with all of those points coming in the seven games since his return. He was champing at the bit for the season to start after a broken finger ended his 2012-13 campaign prematurely. The 23-year-old left-winger had established himself as a regular in the Columbus lineup in the strike-shortened season, and a strong second half had the Blue Jackets optimistic about the future. That optimism remains, but for Calvert and the rest of the team, this season has been frustrating so far.
"Its tough. You work hard all summer and you’re healthy all summer, and then something small like that happens and it turns into a bigger problem and you end up having surgery," Calvert said. "So it’s a little tough, mentally, at the start, but you’ve got to stay positive. You’ve got to get your mind in the right place and know you’re going to come back better than ever. And I think that’s a big part making it easier to come back, that you were in such good shape."
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have gone 12-14-3 to sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. But under the NHL’s new playoff format, the top three teams in each division advance to the post-season and, sitting only three points back of the third-place New York Rangers, there is still time for the Blue Jackets to make their mark, although they’ll have to make do the next month or so without star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is expected to miss about a month with a groin injury.
"It’s been kind of a roller-coaster ride," Calvert said. "We had kind of a tough month of November. … We just seemed to be playing every other day. We were playing great some games, then our next game we didn’t have the energy, and we’ve had some injuries and all that kind of stuff.
"So definitely not the start we wanted, but we’re starting to figure some stuff out now, making a few tweaks. It is a slightly different team from last year, but that’s the fun of it. We’ve got a challenge ahead of us."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 7, 2013