Injured Tampa Bay Lightning D Mattias Ohlund: "I want to give myself another chance to play"

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund is at the Tampa Bay Times Forum five days a week rehabbing from February’s major surgery on his left knee. Doctors used a layer of titanium to resurface Ohlund’s femur at the patellofemoral joint behind his knee cap. The titanium created a cushion where the cartilage that usually covers the bone had worn away and created painful bone-on-bone rubbing.

Ohlund on Friday said he wants to play again but knows there is no guarantee he can revive his 14-season career. “I want to give myself another chance to play and I’m hoping that’s going to happen, but who knows?” he said.

Ohlund, 35, who did not play last season after arthroscopic surgeries on both knees and has not skated since November, has four years and $11.75 million left on his seven-year deal that pays $5 million next season.

A full story will be in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times. Here is Ohlund’s interview with the Times:

On feeling he is improving: I don’t feel it from day to day. I don’t feel from yesterday to today a big difference. But do I feel different from a month ago? Yeah. But this is clearly a bigger procedure. It sounds boring but I have to tell myself to be patient and take one day at a time and do your rehab and do everything you can, and at the end you’re hoping that the end result will be what you want it to be.

On a difficult return to the ice: I think that’s probably fair. The doctor that did my surgery, our doctors, nobody has said it’s impossible. But are they saying this is going to be easy for you? No, they’re not. They’re saying it’s going to be a challenge. I’ve had surgeries before but this one by far has been the most physically hard to go though.

On playing again: I’d like to play again. I’m hoping I will. Is it 100 percent sure? No it’s not. Is it going to be hard? Absolutely. Again, it sounds boring but clearly I don’t think like that all the time. I take one day at a time hoping the result will be as good as everyone wants it to be.

On ending his career playing rather than through injury: This is what I know and this is what I love to do. When you’re younger, I might have looked at guys my age and in my situation and said, ‘Why does he not just quit?’ But when you get older you realize this is truly a blessing to be in this game and it’s so much fun. When you’re younger you have so much other stuff, pressure and you’re dealing with other stuff that you can’t really enjoy it. I think when you hit a certain point in your life you realize you’re very fortunate. I want to give myself another chance to play and I’m hoping that’s going to happen, but who knows?

On the frustration of his situation: I don’t feel sorry for myself.  Would I like to play and be completely healthy as I was when I was younger? Absolutely. Do I have mornings when I woke up and was in a bad mood? Absolutely. My job this year was to come in and just to be happy and be upbeat. They didn’t need anyone to come in here and be grumpy and old.

More on frustrations:  I don’t feel bad for myself. A lot of people got through worse stuff than I do. Would I like to be 20 and completely 100 percent healthy? Absolutely, but that’s the way it is. My life is pretty good. I’m not complaining.

On his rehab: Every day for a couple of hours, probably. I’m still at an early, not basic, rehab, but the first six weeks I did pretty much nothing. I’m really starting not from scratch and when you take into consideration I had stuff earlier in the year I’m really quite far behind from a hockey standpoint.

On his rehab goals: It’s easy for our trainers and doctors when you do an ACL surgery, there’s a standard procedure; at four weeks you do this, you’re supposed to feel like this. With this type of procedure, everybody is different. Clearly, not everybody who does this has the goals of coming back and playing professional hockey again. The time frame, I think it’s been 10 weeks. I ask the same question: what’s the time frame for this? They can’t tell me.

On being ready for training camp: I hope so, but there is a procedure. You have to be able to do this and this before we can recommend you can try stepping on the ice. Right now I’m doing basic rehab and then you have to start working out. You got to work out as an NHL player and then you have to step on the ice and then you got to skate once or twice a week, so clearly I’m at the beginning of my journey.

On perhaps not making it back: Do I ever have that thought? Yeah, absolutely. But I do know this: I have to, for my own peace of mind, give myself a chance to do this. My last year in Tampa (2010-11), maybe, was the most fun I had playing hockey, ever. I’m not the player I used to be in my mid 20s, but you hit a point, like I said, that when you get older you realize how fun it is and how fortunate you are, and I feel like I have to give myself that chance. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I sure hope so.

On his contract situation: I clearly understand the situation would have been easier from Tampa’s standpoint if this was my last year. It’s something we haven’t discussed. I’m sure if this doesn’t work out we’ll sit down and talk about it, but we haven’t. … If I can’t play it will be discussed. But I haven’t put a ton of thought to that. My goal now is to come back and play. If I can’t do that, we’ll discuss the future. My goal is to play hockey again and that’s where I want to put my energy.

[Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 3:25pm]

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