It’s been a longer road than expected for Bobby Sanguinetti, but it appears that the Checkers defenseman is finally nearing a return to game action.
After nine games on the sidelines, Sanguinetti returned to a full team practice on Wednesday following an on-again-off-again month where his status seemed to change, for better or for worse, almost daily. Initially, it seemed that the 23-year-old, fourth-year pro would not miss any time at all despite being forced to leave the Nov. 13 game at Houston, but when his condition did not improve over time, further tests revealed why.
“It was one of those things where it just wasn’t getting better,” said Sanguinetti, who had taken a hard shot off the foot during the team’s 5-2 loss that night. “We had the X-rays and even then they couldn’t really tell what it was, so then we had the CT scan and that’s when it showed the break.”
At that time, doctors recommended more rest, which seems to have done the trick. After taking part in his first full skate in over a week on Wednesday, plus a supplemental one-on-one session with coach Jeff Daniels that immediately followed, all signs point to him returning for Friday’s game at Texas.
“It was good, hard practice to begin with, and that little extra at the end helped me make sure it was good,” said Sanguinetti. “Hopefully he saw that.”
“I don’t want to jump the gun, but he has a chance to be available this weekend,” said Daniels.
When he does return, Sanguinetti will wear a protective guard in the form of a piece of molded hard plastic that will be strapped to his skate. He wore it during Wednesday’s practice, reporting no additional weight or discomfort.
Sanguinetti was in good spirits following the skate, likely because he can now refer to what happened as “a minor setback” as opposed to the hip injury that began under similar circumstances one year ago. That issue, which he initially attempted to play through, eventually required corrective surgery that would limit him to just 31 regular-season games.
“It was bad knowing that it wasn’t getting better, but to hear that it was broken was definitely frustrating,” he said. “It’s a long season, so it was important to take the time and make sure it was right.”
Add that to the fact that, although he wasn’t producing points at quite the same level as he has in the past, coaches believed he was playing his best all-around game to start the season.
“More than anything else, his play in all three zones was really coming around when he got injured,” said Daniels. “He had really made a commitment to what (Assistant Coach) Geordie (Kinnear) was telling him. He had a tough year last year, but he came in focused.”
When he does return, Sanguinetti will provide a boost to a man advantage that has converted just three of its last 29 chances (10.3 percent).
“He’s a guy that plays on the power play and can make that good first pass to help us get out of our zone,” said Daniels.
Sanguinetti’s return would give the team seven healthy defensemen with no clear candidate to sit out. Twenty-six-year-old Chris Murray, recalled from the Florida Everblades to replace Sanguinetti, may not be a sure bet to return to the ECHL.
“He’s been very solid,” said Daniels of Murray, who has played the bulk of his pro career at the ECHL level. “The thing he has going for him is that he spent the whole year in (AHL) Albany last season. We sent him down at the beginning of this season because we want our extra guys to be in shape so that they can make the easy transition when the time comes, and he’s done that.”
Center Cedric McNicoll, who has been out since Oct. 28, was the only player on the roster to not practice on Wednesday. Goalie John Muse skated with the team after being officially recalled from Florida to replace the Checkers’ Mike Murphy, who made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
Although he did not start against the Calgary Flames, Murphy did manage to make NHL history in just 8:37 of ice time. He was the Hurricanes’ active goalie at the time of the Flames’ empty-net goal with 1:09 remaining, a tally that would end up being the game-winner thanks to Carolina’s late rally. The result was Murphy, who stopped both shots he faced, becoming the first goalie in NHL history to suffer his first loss before allowing his first goal.
“That’s a tough record,” said Daniels, smiling.