UNIONDALE, N.Y. Daniel Paille didnt place a lot of significance in it.
But it was hard to miss the team hes playing in his second game back from a busted nose that required surgery.
The fourth-line grinder returned against the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night in a nondescript effort, and now hell be suiting up against the very same New York Islanders team that marked his bloody exit from the TD Garden frozen sheet.
If anybody has forgotten it was a Steve Staios slap shot that zoomed off the New York defensemans stick and caught Paille hard in the protective visor and nose before transforming his face into a bloody mess.
The scene looked pretty gruesome at the time, and its pretty hard to believe that Paille only missed three games. Paille looked every bit the hockey player with bruises, bloodshot eyes and stitches on his face Thursday night while skating with a cage for the first time in his career.
The energy winger admitted it took him a couple of periods to get comfortable with the new equipment and sight lines provided by the bars in the white cage, but he felt like his energetic, gritty self by the final 20 minutes. Breathing through his nose wasnt an issue at all, and that was the single biggest concern.
Paille totaled 11:53 of ice time in the shootout victory and didnt factor into the scoresheet. But in terms of getting Paille back into the flow of hockey after a week on the sidelines, it was the perfect opportunity to mix back in with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell.
Theres a big difference for me. It was a little awkward at first, but by the second half of the game I felt like myself, said Paille. The breathing was fine and the comfort got better. I got used to the cage and the white on the inside after the first couple of shifts.
The Isles hold no particular significance for Paille, either when it comes to the incident.
Staios sought out Paille following the game at the Garden to check on the fallen winger, and expressed sincere regret about the shot that busted up his face. That quick conversation closed the book on the Isles involvement, and at the end of the day Paille feels extremely fortunate things didnt come out worse.
There are always cautionary tales in hockey, and one of them happened tragically in Edmonton last week.
Paille was thanking his lucky stars after reading an article printed out by his wife about the horrific story of a teen-aged hockey player that died after taking a puck to the face around the same time of Pailles injury. Edmonton 16-year-old Kyle Fundytus died from the injuries sustained after blocking a shot with his neck, and it forced Paille to think about how much worse things really could have been.
Thats such a tragedy and your heart goes out to his family, said Paille. At the same it makes you realize how dangerous that situation is, and how lucky you are to come out of it with just some facial injuries. It was uncomfortable and wasnt fun, but it also was just a temporary injury.
The Paille family also sounded like the typical hockey couple once they both realized his injuries amounted to an extra bloody fractured nose with a little facial surgery thrown in for good measure.
I still havent seen a great replay that shows the impact with my face. It happened so fast that you cant even see what happened, said Paille. My wife was pretty scared after seeing the aftermath on the ice.
How long did that fear last for?
Until she found out it amounted to a broken nose. Then she was like oh, thats no so bad.
Thats easy for her to say, said a smiling Paille.
So when Staios winds up for a slap shot during a big moment in Saturday nights game, Paille said he wont be shying away from blocking the shot as hed done 1,000 times before without ever breaking his nose. Thats his lot in life of a fourth line, energy guy, and its something Paille has made peace with even when the inevitable injuries of hockey arrive at his front door.
Its something I deal with every day. When that happened a couple of weeks ago it was the first time its happened in my career, so hopefully its the last time. You never know, said Paille. Its water under the bridge. I know it wasnt intentional. It was a fluke play and its totally in the past now.
With the visual evidence of the injuries fading into the rear view, its again thankfully about hockey and performance for Paille with the protective cage as the one reminder of what can happen when things go wrong on the ice.