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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund to have major knee surgery

One last visit: Pavel Kubina gathers his belongings from the Lightning locker room Sunday before heading to the Flyers, to whom he was traded Saturday: “It’s hard to leave.” Story, 7C

DIRK SHADD | Times

One last visit: Pavel Kubina gathers his belongings from the Lightning locker room Sunday before heading to the Flyers, to whom he was traded Saturday: “It’s hard to leave.” Story, 7C

It is easy to understand why Mattias Ohlund said, "I wake up every day in a bad mood."

The Lightning defenseman is in pain, and the ache in his left knee that has kept him sidelined the entire regular season and off skates completely since mid November is getting worse.

"We have great trainers, and they work with me every day," Ohlund said. "We've tried everything. We've been thinking and talking about this and finally came to the conclusion it's time to get it done."

What Ohlund, 35, will have done Thursday at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio is major surgery on his left knee that likely is the last best hope of saving his career.

The complicated procedure performed by noted orthopedist Anthony Miniaci will use a thin layer of titanium to resurface the bottom of the femur behind the kneecap. That should create a cushion where cartilage that usually covers the bone has flaked off to such an extent there is painful bone-on-bone rubbing at the patellofemoral joint.

There is no guarantee the surgery will resurrect Ohlund's 14-season career. There is not even a timetable for rehab.

"It's going to depend on how it takes," Lightning head medical trainer Tommy Mulligan said.

But Ohlund volunteered, "We're talking months, not weeks."

"Do you have thoughts it's going to be tough? Absolutely," Ohlund added. "I know it's going to be challenging, but I'm determined to come back as soon as possible."

Ohlund hoped his knee problems were done after summer arthroscopic surgery on both cleaned out what the team called "loose bodies."

The right knee is fine, Ohlund said. But the left never regained the proper strength and has gotten progressively more painful while his limp became more pronounced.

The Lightning misses Ohlund's savvy, especially on the penalty kill, as well as his average 18:43 of ice time last season that ballooned to 20:12 in 18 playoff games, in which he was plus-5.

The 6-foot-4, 229-pounder also hits like a battering ram, an asset that makes opponents a little less confident in the offensive zone.

His transition to spectator has not been easy. And Ohlund bristled that the coaching staff referred to him as an ad hoc assistant for the observations he shares after watching games from the press box.

"I'm not a coach. I'm a player," Ohlund said. "I watch the games like every other player who watches games. If they ask me for some input, I'm happy to give it. But clearly, I'm not a coach."

What he has been all season is a patient, and that will not change any time soon.

In August 2007, then-Lightning captain Tim Taylor had a resurfacing procedure on his right hip. It took seven months for Taylor to even consider playing again. He never did, though his day-to-day quality of life improved tremendously.

It is a reality Ohlund knows he might face.

"I don't know if I want to put it in those terms," he said. "But this is a major procedure. Everybody seems quite optimistic I'm going to get better."

"I hope this works out for him," coach Guy Boucher said. "We miss him greatly. He's such a good person. I hope his career will continue."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Or follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund to have major knee surgery 02/19/12 [Last modified: Sunday, February 19, 2012 9:21pm]
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