Tootoo focused on now after being cleared to rejoin Predators

Monday, January 31, 2011 at 10:19pm

The singsong quality of his surname is a big part of his appeal.

Now, though, two is too much for Jordin Tootoo to ponder.

“I’m just going to take it one day at a time,” he said. “Right now, I’m just living in the moment and enjoying every bit of it.”

The 27-year-old forward for the Nashville Predators was undeniably happy — albeit not in tip-top shape — Monday when he rejoined his team after 30 days of treatment under the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Rules of the program prohibit the release of any details regarding a player’s treatment or his specific issues.

At this point, Tootoo only is cleared to practice. It has yet to be determined when he can play again, although it’s certain that it won’t be Tuesday, when the Predators host the Calgary Flames (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) or Thursday when they play at Philadelphia.

“There’s a lot of things that he needs to get set up and structured in his life that are more important than playing right now,” General Manager David Poile said. “This is certainly the first step to, hopefully, having him back in somewhat the near future. The timing of that is totally going to be up to the doctors in the program. They have told us and told him that there’s no timetable for when he’ll be cleared to play but just to go about his business, to show up every day for practice and he will do that.”

Tootoo last played for Nashville on Dec. 26 at St. Louis. Since then the team won twice as many games (10) as it lost (five).

That’s not to say Tootoo’s absence helped the team. When he voluntarily enrolled in the program, he had four goals and six assists in 32 appearances and was on pace for career-highs in numerous statistical categories.

“One thing this year, we thought — outside of a couple of games — is that Jordin played really [well],” Poile said. “In fact, I would say it’s the best hockey he’s ever played in his career. He’s kept up the physical part of his game but he’s also been very effective and been a player who’s contributed in a lot of different areas.”

Yet in the midst of professional achievement, it is now apparent that he had struggles in his personal life.

“I think it was a time for me to look after myself personally and I’m just happy to be back around the guys and back on the ice,” Tootoo said. “It’s been quite some time since I’ve been on the ice. [I’m] a little rusty, but I’m sure I’ll come back quick.”

In his first practice back he was one of two extra forwards and, therefore, did not participate as part of a set line. The team went through skating and shooting drills as regular operations resumed following the weekend’s All-Star break.

Tootoo’s presence only added to the sense of normalcy.

“He’s a good player for us, but we’re just all proud of what he’s doing for his own life,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I think it just makes him a better person, a better player. We’re all just excited to have him back. … It was just good to see him out there. He has joy when he’s playing and I think he’s best when he’s playing.”

“It’s tough to gauge what will happen in the future,” Tootoo said. “I’m taking everything in right now and living in the moment. I’m just going to take it one day at a time and go from there. Obviously, anything you go into, life-changing events, it’s going to take time to adjust.

“With the support that I’ve gotten from my teammates, my family, the fans in Nashville — it’s been unbelievable. Without their support I probably couldn’t have done it, I think. Bottom line, it’s something I needed to do.”

Briefly

• Tootoo was not the only one who rejoined the Predators on Monday. Steve Sullivan, who has been out since Dec. 23 with a lower body injury, also practiced with the team for the first time in more than a month.

Sullivan is still fourth on the team with 10 goals and is one of eight Nashville players with at least 20 points. There is no timetable for when he might play again.

“I think [he is] probably day-to-day,” Trotz said. “I can’t give you a definite timeframe.”

• Defenseman Francis Bouillon has not played since Jan. 16, and his status has been downgraded to "out indefinitely" because of a concussion.

“He obviously won’t play in the next couple of games anyway,” Trotz said.

• Captain Shea Weber, who had a game-high four assists as well as a plus-6 rating in Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game, was excused from Monday’s workout.

“I texted him [Sunday] night and said, ‘I’ll see you on Tuesday. Have a good day off.’ He just texted me back, ‘Thanks,’” Trotz said. “He did a great job. Obviously, he represented us in such a quality way at the All-Star Game.”