Grossman hopeful that his injury days are behind him

Posted: September 23, 2013

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Nick Grossmann said he tries not to look back too much on last season, but every now and again, it enters his mind.

"You think of things that you could have done better," Grossmann said. "You think of things you wish you could change."

If Grossmann could change one thing about last season - and really, his entire year-and-a-half tenure with the Flyers - it would be his number of trips to the trainer's office.

Since joining the Flyers at the 2012 trade deadline, Grossmann has played in fewer than 70 percent (61 of 89) of the games on the schedule. He missed the final 18 games of the season with a concussion, which was first reported after a 5-day break in the schedule in March. Grossmann also had to leave two games early with vague, "lower-body" injuries that could be related to the knee braces he wears on each leg.

His health, coupled with fellow blueliner Andrej Meszaros, is one of the Flyers' biggest question marks heading into the new season. A third pairing of perhaps Meszaros and Grossmann might be the difference of two or three wins vs. filling out a lineup card with Erik Gustafsson and Bruno Gervais in the Nos. 5 and 6 spots.

Grossmann, 28, used the extra-long summer to push the refresh button on his body.

"He's not alone in that scenario," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Our team was tattered last season. This summer not only helped Nick, but a lot of players on our team."

For Grossmann, though, his scary concussion sent him back to his native Sweden a little later than he had initially planned.

Grossmann is thought to have suffered his concussion in Tampa Bay on March 18. The head trauma wreaked havoc on Grossmann's vestibular (balance) system, not all that different from the symptoms Chris Pronger has experienced.

Like Pronger, Grossmann began to wear glasses to help steady his eye. His symptoms were so severe, at one point, that he traveled to visit the noted concussion specialist Dr. Micky Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for a second opinion.

It took until June for him to be fully cleared. Through the ebbs and flows of concussion rehab, Grossmann kept the course.

"I stuck around in Philly until I got cleared," Grossmann said. "I didn't want to leave until I felt good. I didn't have a time frame or anything. I took it a day at a time. I had a good relationship with the training staff here, I worked with them and just waited for it to settle. It was a good feeling to get back to normal."

The Flyers' offseason was so long that Grossmann's concussion troubles didn't affect his summer routine. Missing the playoffs was a blessing in disguise - since he otherwise might have pushed himself to return to the ice too soon.

"Once summer came around, I was almost at full speed with my training," Grossmann said. "I didn't miss a thing. You try to find a positive in the whole thing, that there was a lot of time to rehab and get your body healthy and stronger."

When Grossmann is healthy, Laviolette knows exactly what he is getting. Grossmann can play more than 20 minutes a night, if necessary, and he is a stalwart in front of the net. He is actually a younger, better-skating, better-passing version of veteran tryout Hal Gill, who is still in training camp with the Flyers. The only difference is that Gill has no lingering health question marks.

"When Nick got injured, he was at the top of his game," Laviolette said. "He was an absolute force out there for us. He had the ability to play physical, to take time and space, make a good first pass out of his end, block shots. There was a lot he brought to the table."

Now, with a full roster of NHL-worthy defensemen, Grossmann is back trying to figure out where he fits in.

"This isn't any different than any other camp," Grossmann said. "You've got to come in and earn your spot. You've got to want to play. I can't wait to do that."

Wayne Simmonds missed the 90-minute skate because of the flu . . . After practice, the Flyers held an off-ice, team-building session yesterday. In their locker room, each player had camouflage T-shirts with the phrase "Operation Warrior Force" emblazoned on them. They are not skating today, but continue off-ice activities. They will skate in Lake Placid again for a final time tomorrow before flying home . . . Peter Laviolette said he would like to keep Scott Laughton at center, where he is most comfortable.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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