WILMINGTON – There’s been plenty of well-deserved attaboys for Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides and the rest of the training staff over the last few days given Dougie Hamilton’s strong performance in his return from a lower body injury.
The 20-year-old had missed nearly a month of action and 10 games with an injury suffered in the Dec. 8 win over the Maple Leafs. It was the first significant injury of Hamilton’s NHL career, and the longest he’d ever been out of the lineup due to an injury.
So rust probably could have – and probably should have – been there in large amounts, but instead Hamilton finished with a solid winning performance in nearly 18 minutes of ice time.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came back,” admitted Hamilton. “But all of the skating and bike rides I did with [Whitesides] and the other guys that were injured really paid off in the end.
“The time spent on the couch just icing down all the time really just wants to make you play again. When you get away from it, it makes you realize how much you miss it.”
The 6-foot-5 defenseman skated with Zdeno Chara as the top defensemen pair, and made the first pass out of the defensive zone to set up Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal in overtime. Instead of perhaps running out of gas in OT in his first game back, Hamilton still had the mental and physical reserves to spark a winning play.
Claude Julien said it was the work of Hamilton with the B’s training staff that kept his mind and his game in place.
“I just talked to him after practice, and he agreed with me. The way he was pushed by the training staff when he was out of the lineup helped him in coming back,” said Julien. “We push guys hard as you can see with the extra guys. Those things can seem like punishment, but they’re not. It’s in order to give those guys the best possible chance to come back, and jump right back into things.
“That’s what we did with Dougie. He was pushed hard on and off the ice in his rehab, and it didn’t seem like he’d even missed a game. He was a strong skater, and he was right in there. You credit the guys that work him hard on the ice, and that’s [Whitesides] and the assistant coaches during that time when he was working his way back.”
That’s a lesson to all those players that dread the strenuous “Bag Skates with Whitey” as they’ve become known when a player is coming back from injury, or simply not in the lineup as a healthy scratch.
It might not be fun, but it’s good for you as a player.