One question of which Tim Gleason has heard enough: “How are you feeling?”
And pending a final test, he might not have to answer it again for quite awhile.
Gleason, who has been sidelined with a concussion for the Hurricanes’ first nine games of the regular season, could return as early as Thursday if he responds well to contact practices this week.
“I’m pretty much tested out at this point, but one more to go,” he said with a smile after his first physical practice with the team since the preseason. “It’s good to get in the flow of things. Obviously it’s a bit different than just skating on your own.”
The 6-foot, 217-pound Gleason dropped the gloves with Montreal’s Jarred Tinordi, who measures in at six feet and six inches and 227 pounds, in the first period of a preseason game on Sept. 21. After serving his five-minute penalty, Gleason played the rest of the period, but did not return to the ice after the first intermission.
As soon as he got to the penalty box, he couldn’t hear out of his right ear. That was the first red flag.
“I found out later on that I blew my ear drum,” Gleason said, adding that he ruptured his left ear drum when he had a head cold on a plane about five years ago. “So if I don’t hear anybody, it’s not my fault.”
In the days following the fight, Gleason took some time off away from the rink. That’s when the dizziness and general uneasiness set in, leading to a couple of frustrating, wait-and-see sort of weeks.
“I was, more or less, off balance for a few days. And then I had a couple good days, and all of a sudden I started getting dizzy for three-quarters of the day, and that just stopped about a week ago,” he said. “You just hope for the best, and you wake up everyday hoping you’re not dizzy.”
With the healing time and process essentially out of Gleason’s control, patience was key.
“You have to get rid of the symptoms. For me, it was just staying focused and not thinking too much about it,” he said. “Everybody gets headaches, and you don’t want to overthink things.”
Once the symptoms passed, it was a matter of working to get back on the ice, starting in the weight room, progressing to skating with assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour and then rejoining the team.
It was like training camp all over again.
“It’s kind of brutal because you work all summer long to get conditioned, and then you have to start from scratch,” he said. “It’s frustrating in that manner, but I guess it gives you an opportunity to get ready again.”
Skating with Brind’Amour, who was renowned as a player for his always-peak conditioning, is no easy task. He’ll ensure, stamina-wise, that players are ready for game action. On Monday, Gleason and the team put in some power-skating work with Kim Muir, someone the blue liner has worked with since his early teens.
As for who leads the more grueling workout, Gleason was tight-lipped.
“I can’t even answer that because if I say one or the other, they’ll be tougher on me next time,” Gleason said. “For Kim, it’s just working on your edges and feet work, which allows you to get some balance. Roddy pretty much just skates you hard and gets you back in shape.”
With Gleason looking to draw back into the lineup this week, where does the 30-year-old defenseman fit in? The Canes are currently carrying seven healthy defenseman, one of which is 20-year-old Ryan Murphy, who is tied for fourth in team scoring with another young defenseman in Justin Faulk. Andrej Sekera has paired up nicely with Faulk, Jay Harrison is steady and reliable, Ron Hainsey is regularly logging close to 20 minutes, Brett Bellemore has proven to be a rugged body and Mike Komisarek has averaged 16:18 of ice time in his two games played.
“It’ll make decisions hard, but obviously we want to get Gleas up and going and back in the equation soon,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “It’s great for coaches to sit here and say, ‘Hey, we have some options.’
“He’s a big part of this hockey team. We’ve been pleased with our defensive corps so far. There’s been some good chemistry, and guys have all contributed in different ways. This just adds some great depth to our hockey club.”
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