The Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins sorely missed their respective top defenseman during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If all goes according to plan, both teams will be welcoming them back with open arms in less than three months.
Calgary managed to qualify for the postseason and defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the first round without the services of Mark Giordano, who suffered a torn bicep tendon in a game against the New Jersey Devils on February 25. The Flames went on to lose to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference semifinals.
The injury ended a stellar season in which Giordano still set a career high with 48 points – one more than his total from the 2013-14 campaign. The team captain likely would have also set a personal best in goals had he not gotten hurt, as he finished three shy of the 14 he scored during the previous season.
Giordano originally was expected to need four to five months to recover from the surgery. However, the undrafted 31-year-old believes he is ahead of schedule.
“No hiccups,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I was hoping that if we got to the next round (of the playoffs), I could sort of push it. But I’m skating again without a brace, so it’s gone better than expected, I would say.”
Being unable to participate in the postseason was heartbreaking for Giordano, whose only playoff appearance came in 2007. The native of Toronto scored a power-play goal in four games for the Flames as they fell in six to the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
Giordano could receive a pair of honors in Las Vegas on Wednesday night as he is a finalist for both the NHL Foundation Player Award and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. But no matter how elated he will be should he win either award, the defenseman is extremely pleased with his physical progress and expects to be ready for training camp in September.
“I feel almost 100 percent, it’s just a strength thing now,” Giordano said. “As far as the repair, it went really well. Just trying to get strong again.”
Kris Letang wishes getting strong was all he needed to do to get back on the ice. The Pittsburgh blue-liner suffered a concussion on March 28 against the Arizona Coyotes that shelved him for the season and raised doubt about his future.
Like Giordano, Letang also was having a career season prior to getting hurt. The 28-year-old already had recorded a personal-best 54 points and matched his career high of 11 goals in just 69 games.
While it’s common knowledge that a concussion is a difficult injury from which to come back, Letang has overcome bigger obstacles in his career. The Montreal native suffered a stroke in January of 2014 but was back in action in less than three months.
Letang is recovering nicely from the concussion, as he was cleared for full contact on June 1. And he hasn’t had any issues while attempting to get back into shape.
“Since I was fully cleared, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted,” Letang told reporters. “I’m at the same level of training as a year ago. I haven’t gone on the ice yet. But I’m in the gym going all out, no restrictions. Everything went well.”
Letang also is in Las Vegas, as he is a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy. And he vows to be with his teammates in September as they attempt to shake off a disappointing first-round playoff exit.
“I’m going to be ready for training camp,” Letang said. “No doubt about that.”
Giordano and Letang were on their way to becoming finalists for the Norris Trophy before having their seasons end abruptly. Now, they’re on their way back from serious injuries with the intention of becoming two of the NHL’s elite defensemen.