Regaining His Form
Wednesday, 05.09.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
May 9, 2007
by Brian Wheeler
Tim Connolly streaked down the left boards into the neutral zone. He faked left and cut right toward center ice while dangling the puck like it was attached to a string.
Everyone knows what happened next.
Ottawa's Peter Schaefer leveled the talented center with a bone-crunching, open ice check. Connolly was assisted to the locker room by trainings and never returned to the lineup until two games prior to the 2007 playoffs.
It's been a year and a day since that collision, and Connolly, who missed 80 games during the regular season with post-concussion related symptoms, is regaining his prior form.
His recovery has been termed by head coach Lindy Ruff as being "incredible."
"You'd like to have a breakout time when you've trained for a heck of a season," said Ruff. "He's doing it on training after being out for nine months, basically doing it on four months of training.
"It was getting depressing for him for a good period of time and now he's just having fun playing."
In 11 post-season games, Connolly has been credited with seven assists and is a plus-five. His ice time has been increasing as his stamina improves, topping off at 19:34 TOI in Game Five of the Sabres second round match-up against the New York Rangers.
Mindful of his conditioning, Ruff has kept a close eye on Connolly's performance shift in and shift out throughout each contest.
"From when he first got back to now, he's maintaining a pretty high level and is able to sustain that for the 35, 45 seconds," said Ruff. "His shifts early on were pretty short."
For Connolly, there's no vengeance to be had in the series, other than winning. Plain and simple.
"There are four teams left, and you just want to take it one game at a time," said Connolly. "No matter what team it is, we're in the Eastern Conference Finals and a step closer to the ultimate goal. It just happens to be Ottawa.
Ray Emery doesn't like the night life in Buffalo. Several Ottawa players have stated their distaste for the Sabres. Dainius Zubrus says, "So what?" It's another series but the same old song and dance to Zubrus.
"Let them say whatever they want," said Zubrus. "Honestly, there's a game to be played tomorrow and that's my worry.
"It was the same thing the series before. [Sean] Avery or somebody else said something. I don't care what was said in the papers. Never read it. Never paid attention."