TORONTO– Matt Lashoff wasn’t supposed to play again this season with the Toronto Marlies but, if they need him to suit up, he’s more than ready to jump back in the line up for the first time in six months.
“All signs are pointing to me getting back and playing at some point this season,” said Lashoff after taking part in his first full contact practice since getting injured back in October. “I’m feeling good. My wind and everything is pretty much back to game shape. I think it’s just getting used to game-like scenerios.”
One obstacle still standing in his way however is, that because his name was left off the Marlies playoff roster, he can only see game action if emergency conditions arise as a result of injury or suspension.
The 25-year-old defenceman has been out all season, recovering from knee surgery, after tearing his ACL on October 30th from a hit thrown by Lake Erie Monsters forward Patrick Bordeleau.
Originally, it was expected that Lashoff wouldn’t play again this season, after appearing in only nine games, but a successful rehab program put him about six weeks ahead of schedule as he was back skating on his own in early March.
Despite the progress, Lashoff admits it hasn’t been an easy on him.
“I won’t lie to anybody,” he said. “It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through in my career. The toughest part mentally was the first month when I had to wait for surgery. I was in turmoil. I was just trying to wrap my head around the whole situation and it was hard not to get down on myself.”
“I tried to do everything I possibly could. I was in the rink six or seven hours a day and I can’t thank the doctors and training staff enough for getting me back.”
The doctors and training staff may get the praise from Lashoff but when he was still having doubts about how quickly his leg would heal, the former first-round draft pick looked towards other players who have battled more severe injuries. From them, he found hope, and sometimes, inspiration.
“I’ve talked to guys like (Joffrey) Lupul and how he’s attacked his injuries,” said Lashoff. “One of my good friends in Max Pacioretty and seeing what he went through with the (Zdeno) Chara hit, how he worked out and pinpointed himself mentally to get back. And both are up for the Masteron trophy, so it’s obviously doable.”
What’s disappointed Lashoff most from the time off is that his career had to take a step-back when it was likely he would be seeing some more time with his parent club Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
He finished last year on their roster, managed to dress for 11 games total and felt what he showed to them had him on their short list for a return at some point this season.
“I made a lot of progress in my game last year and felt I carved out a role up there and I was pushing towards getting back and staying,” he said. “It was a tough thing to take.”
At the end of this season Lashoff will become an unrestricted free agent and not being able to prove his value for a new deal is something that’s come across his mind.
“I think there are a lot of things up in the air,” said Lashoff. “It’s hard to say that you don’t think about the contract with all the time off but it’s not like I’m sitting there on a day to day basis. My goal was to get back on the ice.”
Lashoff will participate in all team practices while Toronto’s post-season continues on with a Western Conference semi-final match up against the Abbotsford Heat. The deeper the Marlies go in the playoffs the better the chance is that he’s back on the ice, not just doing skating drills but, in a game.