The Oilers had an optional skate this morning. Cam Talbot was on the ice and will be ready for Monday’s game versus Tampa Bay. Connor McDavid also skated, and he told me it was because he didn’t skate Monday or Tuesday and he likes getting on the ice.
The Oilers had eight forwards, five D-men and Talbot on the ice this morning.
Andrej Sekera has played 15 games since returning from ACL surgery last May. Even though he is healthy enough to play, there are still limitations to what he can do.
“It is frustrating. It is part of the game, but it takes time to heal. I’m just trying to do what I can to make sure it feels normal, but it takes time. Right now I’m just trying to play my best with what I have,” said Sekera.
The most frustrating aspect for Sekera, and most players who return from a major surgery, is their mind knows what to do and how to do it, but their body isn’t reacting how it used to. It is even more difficult when you miss training camp, preseason and the first two months. Sekera is coming off surgery and trying to play catch up to rest of the league which has had a three month head start.
“The first couple games were tough, but now I know what the pace is, but the mobility (in his knee) is not what it was, so I’m trying to come up with some other movements. When I turn one way it doesn’t react how I’m used to. I need to finish the season strong, have a good summer workout so I don’t have to have the brace, which is limiting me,” Sekera explained.
He needs the brace to decrease his chances of re-injuring his knee, but it impacts his skating, and in today’s game with so much focus on skating, when a player knows he isn’t as quick or mobile as he’s used to, I can understand his frustration.
Sekera has had to rely on his experience, but he’s trying not to change how he plays.
“I think the game the same way as when I was 100% healthy. I would like to be a second quicker, or make the turn a little bit quicker. One side is fine, but the other (left) is not as good,” Sekera.
Sekera is very happy to be playing, and said playing, even off an injury, is much better than the alternative of not playing. However, it is noticeable he isn’t the same player.
Sekera is a good reminder of how difficult it is to succeed in the NHL. When healthy he is a very effective player, but a small reduction in his mobility and suddenly he looks like an average player. The gap is so small between effective and treading water and when I see a good player suddenly struggling I always wonder how much of it is health related.
I don’t agree with certain goalies who don’t want to talk on game day. Every other position, and most goalies in the league do, so it shouldn’t be an issue. It is actually in the CBA that every player should be available on game day, but I wanted to let Montoya explain why he prefers not to. It is okay to disagree, and I was curious about how he prepares.
“It is just the way it has been for most of my career (Winnipeg/Montreal), and it’s part of my routine. Some places I was told I didn’t have to, but others I did,” explained Montoya.
I asked him what he does to prepare, and if he is visualizing about the game at 11 am when media availability takes place.
“No, but a lot of preparation goes into the game. For me, it is more what I’ve always done.”
How do you prepare for a game?
“I visualize, I eat right, drink right and take care of my body. The biggest thing for me is practicing, especially because I don’t play many games”
Are you superstitious?
“Being in the league this long it is more about sticking to my routine because so many things change all the time. I’ve let a couple things go, but I’m sure I have a couple things (superstitions) in there.”
Do you have to put one pad on first?
“I don’t have to, but it probably goes that way (laughs).”
Montoya admitted there could have been better communication prior to the game, with it being his first start in Edmonton. Let media know the day before to talk to him then. And I’m fine with that. There is often a way to solve it, if it is discussed.
I respect Montoya for talking to me about it. He chuckled a bit when I asked if he was in the back room preparing at 11 a.m. Not speaking on game day has become a habit for him, and while I don’t completely agree with it, I can understand habits. I did ask if he would let us know the day before he starts so we can talk with him. He’s been around the league a long time and for good questions, I think he could have some valuable insight.
I agree some game day questions aren’t good which leads to pointless responses from players. I’ve long argued that 50% of the interview responsibility falls on the reporter. If you ask bad questions, don’t complain about getting bad answers. Part of the job is to make the player feel comfortable, which often leads to more honest and insightful answers.
Montoya and I won’t completely agree about game day interviews, but I got his side, shared with him my views, and we found some middle ground. It likely helped that I began our conversation talking about Jason Strudwick, who Montoya played with in New York, and Montoya’s nickname on that team: The Greasy Cuban.
Adam Larsson and his family suffered a tragic loss with the passing of his father Robert, who arrived in Edmonton last week to visit. Robert was 50 years young. Having lost my father at 27 years of age, I can understand how difficult of a situation this is for their family. I hope they find comfort and have wonderful memories of Mr. Larsson. May he rest in peace.
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