It looked as if 2010-11 would be a breakthrough season for Cal O’Reilly. Then came the bad break — literally.
A fractured fibula sustained on Jan. 2 ended his first full NHL campaign after just 38 games and led to an extended rehab. It happened as the result of an open-ice collision with Columbus forward Derek Dorsett and was just one of a rash of serious injuries that plagued Nashville centers throughout the season.
O’Reilly said he has seen photos but has not gone back and watched video of the incident.
“I knew right away it was something bad,” O’Reilly said. “Shock kicked in a little bit, so the pain was kind of immediate but then it goes away. Then you go from there.”
In his case, he is back to full health and guaranteed to be back with the Predators after he signed a one-way contract in July.
The same cannot be said of the others at that position who endured serious ailments last season.
Matthew Lombardi, the franchise’s prized free agent acquisition of 2010, was traded to Toronto this past offseason because he had not yet overcome the effects of a concussion that caused him all but the first two games. Marcel Goc signed with Florida as a free agent after he missed 31 games and the entire postseason with a shoulder injury.
Even now the issues linger. Mike Fisher, acquired in a trade last February to help fill the void, has yet to be cleared for contact in the current training camp because of shoulder surgery during the offseason.
Then in the second of Monday’s two contests at Florida, Blake Geoffrion sustained a lacerated wrist, which will cause him to sit out a couple of weeks.
O’Reilly, though, has practiced at full speed and appeared in two of the team’s three preseason games Monday and Tuesday. It’s expected he’ll be in the lineup for at least one of the next two — Friday at Carolina, Saturday at home against Winnipeg — as well.
“My summer training, I took it a little slow in how hard I went on it, but a week or two in it felt great and I trained full out for the rest of the summer,” he said. “Once I started skating, it felt great. There wasn’t any setback. There wasn’t a fear at all. It’s not even in my head that I hurt my leg.
“So it feels great.”
At the time he was injured, O’Reilly, a fifth-round draft choice in 2006, was tied for third on the team with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). He had five-game point streaks in both early November and early December and had a three-point performance in the first week of the season.
However, he did not have a point in the last 11 games he played, a streak which immediately followed his second stretch of five straight with a point.
“I’m anxious to get at it,” he said. “After last year, missing a lot of games, I’ve come back hungry. I want to have a good start like I did last year and stay healthy and just keep going all year.”
He actually was available for the Predators’ deepest playoff run.
O’Reilly was activated from injured reserve on the final day of the regular season but his conditioning had waned to the point that he was considered nothing more than an emergency option. That never happened, and his rehab continued unabated until it was complete.
“It’s obviously tough, but something you had to do,” he said. “I tried to push it as hard as I could to get it back as quickly as possible.
“I feel like it really paid off — all the hard rehab.”