If Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray hadn’t been quite up to speed on the intensity of these playoff-push games the past few weeks, he’s probably all caught up by now.
The impressive rookie had missed 15 games after injuring his knee and having arthroscopic surgery a few weeks ago. He returned for Friday night’s immensely entertaining game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, a game that ended in devastating fashion for the Blue Jackets on Ben Smith’s last-second regulation goal.
You can bet Murray is champing at the proverbial bit to get right back at it Sunday evening against the New York Islanders, as the Blue Jackets try to shake off that punch to the gut by Chicago. He hasn’t exactly relished sitting idly by as his teammates have played the most meaningful games of the season over the past month.
"It’s been tough to watch," Murray admitted. "It’s always tough sitting in the room or up top in the press box. It’s kind of funny, I felt more nervous watching the games than playing in the games. I’m just excited to be back to full health here. I’m really glad to be able to get back out there and contribute to our playoff run."
When he injured the knee in Toronto back on March 3rd, the original prognosis was for Murray to be out four to six weeks. So his return Friday was indicative of the hard work he put into his rehab to get back on the ice on the near end of that time frame. He says the knee is feeling fine, and he can play at full strength.
"Yeah, pretty much full bore now," said the Saskatchewan native. "The doctors have said you can pretty much do what you want. It’s all healed up, and they’ve said if it feels good, go ahead and do what you need to do.
"It doesn’t make me feel tentative," Murray continued. "It doesn’t hurt or feel awkward; it doesn’t hurt on the ice doing anything, so there’s no need to be tentative when it feels as solid as my other knee. Every day I’m on it, it feels better, so that’s a really good sign."
The Blue Jackets first-round pick of 2012 (2nd overall) laughed when asked to compare this recent injury setback to the major shoulder surgery that kept him out of the entire lockout-shortened NHL season last year.
"The shoulder seemed to take forever, and it was really frustrating," he said. "It was supposed to be four to six months of rehab, but it never really ends. I still do rehab to this day, and I’ll probably have to do it for the rest of my life, to be honest. And the knee already feels normal, just like my other one, and it’s barely been four weeks."
Murray has marveled at the work ethic of his teammates, as they’ve tried to claw into the Eastern Conference playoff mix and stay there, and he’s extremely pleased to join the last-ditch push to the finish line.
"These guys have been working their butts off here trying to get into a playoff position," he noted. "They’ve done a great job every single night. They’ve been working so hard, and when you’re watching that, you definitely want to be a part of it.
"There’s this sense of urgency where you want to keep up with everybody else," he continued. "You want to make sure you’re not saving any energy, and if I have a little more because of the injury layoff, I’m going to be using all of it."