A scar might be lingering, but other than that, signs Wild defenseman Ryan Suter is rebounding from a severe ankle injury are tough to spot.
Suter didn’t switch out his skate for a specialized one, even though the option was available. There’s no extra protection surrounding the foot that smashed into the boards.
And when he took to the ice Friday at Xcel Energy Center for the first round of practices during training camp, Suter jostled with the opposition in front of the net, slung tape-to-tape passes and supported the attack like he did before he was sidelined last season.
“I feel great,” he said. “It was fun to get into it, have a good practice. Felt really good.”
Less than six months after receiving a diagnosis that probably would have ended his career in another sport, Suter has been given the green light for full participation with the Wild.
He’s confident he’ll be in the lineup for the season opener Oct. 4 against the Avalanche. While he’s attempting to approach the lead-up like he has every other season, the 33-year-old’s outlook has changed on the heels of a trying summer.
“I’m excited to be back playing, for sure,” Suter said. “You appreciate being healthy more. You appreciate being able to put your skate on and not having to limp around when you are healthy. Just take every day to its fullest and have fun.”
During the second period of a March 31 game against the Stars, Suter broke his talus and the outside of his right fibula after he was hit into the boards.
The injury, the first to sideline him during a Wild tenure that began in 2012 after he signed a 13-year, $98 million contract as a free agent, also cut short arguably one of the best seasons of his NHL career.
Just one game earlier, Suter had set his personal best and the franchise record for assists in a season for a defenseman with 45 and tied his career high in points at 51. His average ice time of 26 minutes, 47 seconds was also more than his career average (25:05).
After surgery, Suter’s mobility was extremely limited, as he had to keep weight off his ankle.
“I’m sitting on the couch. I can’t do anything,” Suter said. “So it wasn’t really hard for me. It was hard for my wife [Becky]. She had to deal with the other three kids, the new baby and the big baby — me. It was challenging for her. Not being able to help is probably the toughest part for me.”
At the end of July, Suter finally slipped his right foot into a skate. But the progress was painful.
“Oh man, this might never get better again,” he thought.
Suter persevered, though. He “stood around” during his first week back on the ice. By Week 2, he was skating strides.
“Just kind of battled through it there for a while,” Suter said.
Earlier this week, he successfully finished coach Bruce Boudreau’s skating test.
“I was like, ‘All right, I might want to do this on my own before I get out there and make a fool out of myself,’ ” Suter said. “It was tough, but I made it. That’s all that matters.”
While he plans to participate in the upcoming scrimmages at camp, Suter isn’t expected to dress for any of the Wild’s seven preseason games — an absence that the team doesn’t feel will affect Suter’s readiness for Game No. 1.
“His experience and his knowledge and everything else, he’s probably one of the few players who could get away with not playing a game,” Boudreau said.
But when he does return to action, Suter will suit up with even more gratitude for being in the lineup.
And that’s a moment he always knew he’d get.
“It’s been a long process, a long summer getting up every morning and dealing with that,” Suter said. “[But] there was no doubt I had in my mind that I was going to be able to play again.”