BOSTON — Ask a couple of Ottawa Senators if they could imagine playing with a pinky finger that just weeks ago was pretty well amputated near the tip, and you’ll get reactions ranging from “Uuuhh…” to “Eeeugh.”
Well, that’s what Marc Methot is up to these days.
The veteran defenceman made his return to the Senators lineup Saturday, just in time for the team’s first win of these playoffs in Game 2.
“It held up well enough,” Methot said of his pinky, following Sunday’s off-day skate in Boston.
“Everyone’s playing beat up and bruised and all that kinda stuff, and it certainly doesn’t always feel great out there.”
It doesn’t look great, either, if you ask teammate Clarke MacArthur. The winger’s nose wrinkles when he thinks about the state of Methot’s finger.
“It kinda looks like he stuck it in a car lighter,” MacArthur said. He does admit “it has come a long way” since March 23, when Methot’s left pinky was bloodied and left hanging by a layer of skin or two after a slash from Sidney Crosby.
“It was pretty disgusting,” MacArthur added. “It’s nice that they were able to stitch that back up. It’s coming around. Still, I don’t wanna see that when I’m eating.”
It’s a good thing Methot keeps it covered in a bunch of white gauze, then.
After missing 10 games and about three weeks of action due to that pinky, Methot logged 18 minutes and 12 seconds during the 4-3 overtime win, which knotted the series ahead of Monday’s Game 3. You could see him labouring at times on the bench, not only because he was a little winded in his first game back, but also because he was in pain.
“To be honest with you, I was just happy that I was able to make it through that game,” Methot said. “I know there was a good chance that I could, but there’s so many unknowns out there in a hockey game with sticks everywhere and all that physicality…I had my moments where it hurt a little bit, but otherwise, it was pretty good.”
His return came at a good time, too. On Saturday, the Senators lost defenceman Mark Borowiecki, who’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Fellow point man Dion Phaneuf, who scored the OT winner, called it “a big boost” to have the guy they call “Meth” back in the lineup.
“Meth’s air-tight,” added second-year defenceman Chris Wideman, who scored his first-ever playoff goal in Game 2. “There’s just so much confidence. He’s a guy that doesn’t probably get the credit that he deserves around the league.
“When I look at Meth, I just see that whenever he’s on the ice, nothing bad happens.”
MacArthur seconds that. “One thing about Meth is when you don’t notice him, he’s having great games,” he said. “And that’s a big part of our team.”
Coach Guy Boucher sounded a little surprised to see the Ottawa-born Methot play the way he did in his return. He was expecting “maybe a few mistakes here and there,” as he put it.
“With Methot back, I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s a gigantic uplift for our top four [defencemen],” Boucher said. “Now we got our top four all healthy, and Meth, he played terrific, he’s got the speed and the physicality.
“I thought he managed the puck really well, so I was really impressed for a first game back. Sometimes you forget how good these guys are, and when they’re not there it makes you understand how good they are and how important they are. Having him back is huge for us.”
Methot’s first game back was about managing his minutes, which was tough, given the fact Ottawa was limited to five defencemen after the Borowiecki injury.
“When you start getting a little fatigued or tired, I think that’s where you get off the ice and you keep your shifts short,” Methot said. “They’ve done a great job with me in terms of all the conditioning. I’ve had to work really hard to maintain that and I take pride in that, too. That’s working out to my benefit.”
Part of the reason the 31-year-old couldn’t get on the ice and skate right after the injury was fear of an infection. (Just think about the bacteria in those gloves, though MacArthur points out, “We’re all pretty clean—we shower!”). He has to have it covered up for games and practices for that reason.
Methot played fewer minutes than he usually does, and said that was a welcome change for his first game back.
“Getting that first game outta the way now and getting my legs back is huge,” he said. “I’ll just feel better moving forward.”
He’s also aware of his limitations on account of the pinky, and says he’s trying to simplify his game even further. That can be tough to do in a game, however, as he realized on Saturday.
“Maybe in practice you’re protecting things a little bit more, and all the sudden you’re in the game and you don’t really think about it, and sometimes you get carried away a little. I had my moments,” he said.
“I think it’s hopefully gonna hold up and everything’s gonna be OK. It’s just dealing with the pain and all that stuff, and that’s part of playing in the playoffs.”
Well, sure, but this injury is a little different from the average injury banged-up players deal with this time of year.
“That’d be tough,” MacArthur said, at the thought of playing with that pinky. The winger who missed nearly two seasons with concussion symptoms knows a thing or two about being hurt, too.
“He’s battling through,” MacArthur said, “and that’s what we love about him.”
Wideman—who’s response began with “Uuuhh” when asked if he could imagine playing with that pinky, said the team is all “giving him props” for playing.
Said Wideman: “He’s a warrior.”