Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Road to Recovery

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Road to Recovery

Article excerpt

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The doctors have told Mats Zuccarello he should be sufficiently recovered from a brain contusion and small skull fracture to resume his career next season for the Rangers. Ongoing speech therapy has helped him restore his ability to communicate.

For now, though, Zuccarello and his teammates can only regret what the popular playmaker's absence meant to the Rangers as they fell short of their goal of returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year. The Rangers finished atop the NHL regular- season standings after setting franchise records with 53 wins and 113 points.

The disappointed Rangers conducted breakup day Monday at the Madison Square Garden Training Center, three days after their season ended with a 2-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Garden.

"It's been a very emotional and challenging last couple of days for our group and myself," coach Alain Vigneault said. "After Game 7, my youngest daughter [Janie, 22], was crying for hours and I couldn't get her to stop. Everyone who is close to me felt we were going to move on. It's hard to handle but it's life."

Zuccarello's injury gives more perspective to that sentiment.

He said he didn't know whether his life was ever in danger after being hit on the left side of the head by Ryan McDonagh's slap shot in the decisive Game 5 of the first-round series against the Penguins on April. 24.

But he spent the next three days in the hospital and the next four days unable to speak.

"I had a small fracture in my head; I lost my talking and some feeling in my arm," Zuccarello said in his first public comments since the injury. "At the beginning, I couldn't talk. I lost everything. It was scary. I was not sure when I was going to be healthy. After a while, I was just happy to recover quickly."

McDonagh visited Zuccarello at the hospital immediately after Game 5 against the Penguins.

"Nobody knew what was going on the night of," McDonagh said. "After the game, I went to our trainer and asked where he was and he said he was in the hospital and I went with our [doctor] to see him. It was not a very good sight for sure. …

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