Before he suffered an abdominal strain last week, the Carolina Hurricanes’ Gary Roberts was leading his new team in scoring. This after missing last season after neck surgery.
A lot of people thought the former Calgary Flame was finished as a player. But he wrestled with the idea of returning to the NHL, even though another neck injury might mean a life of paralysis.
He spent a year away from the game lifting weights, riding exercise bikes, receiving treatments. He was 31 and in perhaps the best shape of his career.
He remembers a pivotal moment during the decision process, a broadcast discussion between John Davidson, Don Cherry and others during the playoffs.
“J.D. obviously heard the scoop out of Calgary that it looked like I was going to come back and play,” Roberts said. “And Don Cherry said, ‘Gary, go for it because if you don’t, you’ll always regret it.’ Believe it or not that took a lot of heat off me. Because up to that stage, people were saying, ‘Boy, you’re absolutely crazy. What are you thinking?”’
Stockpiling draft picks
When Colorado traded popular Mike Ricci to San Jose for Shean Donovan and a first-round draft pick, it gave the Avalanche four first-round picks in June’s draft. They acquired the others from Washington, Los Angeles and Boston.
A likely scenario is that general manager Pierre Lacroix will package the picks in a trade to obtain the No. 1 overall pick and select top prospect Vincent Lecavalier.
The center is tearing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, having scored 47 points in his first 23 games, and is drawing comparisons to Mario Lemieux.
On the ice
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski scored his second goal of the game with 51.9 seconds left in overtime and the Florida Panthers ended the New Jersey Devils’ team-record eight-game winning streak with a 2-1 win Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J.
At Pittsburgh, Jaromir Jagr returned to the Penguins lineup after missing four games and scored a fluke goal off the skate of Rangers defenseman Steve Finley 25 seconds into overtime to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.
At Landover, Md., San Jose scored on three of its first six shots and Kelly Hrudey had 32 saves as the Sharks won a third straight game for the first time since the 1994-95 season by beating the Washington Capitals 5-2.