One month since his back seized up in pain and dropped him to all fours, 39-year-old Islanders captain Doug Weight is still managing the nagging day-to-day reminders of what has kept him out of 10 straight games.
As bad as those have been-- lingering soreness each morning and evening, stiffness during the day and many restless nights—the most difficult and delicate challenge has been trying to lead his reeling Islanders club without stepping on the ice.
“It’s hard to be out during that time,” said Weight, who was placed on injured reserve Monday. “I still have work to do to get back and help the team. My job is a lot more than going to rehab. We’ve had 8 to 10 meetings in the last week with the guys where we’ve tried to be uplifting, positive. We’re trying to create and atmosphere of trusting and belief,”
Weight’s leadership and guidance are desperately needed by a struggling squad that has lost 20 out of the past 21 games. The Islanders have lost not only their captain, but four of five alternate captains—Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Mark Eaton and Trent Hunter-- to injury as well.
“A big part of leadership is during a hockey game and it’s difficult between periods to deal with what we’re dealing with now,” said Weight, who has two goals and 7 assists in 18 games this season. “Its a pretty inexperienced group on the bench.”
That’s why Weight has made an effort to arrive early before each game. He’ll have a chat with top defensive prospect Travis Hamonic, hang out and talk shop with former tenant John Tavares or maybe even write down a few nice plays to point out to remind guys of when they’re playing well.
“It’s a challenge, but the last thing they need is more people moping around,” said Weight, who has also provided some informal help with the team’s power play in recent weeks. “What they’re going through is a lot worse than me. I try to be upbeat and show some positive things to everyone.”
Weight, who underwent an aggressive rehab this summer to recover from a season-ending shoulder surgery last March, said he doesn’t expect to undergo any surgical procedure on his back this season.
After admitting he’d been going slightly “bonkers” about his level of inactivity during rehab, the self-professed “workout-aholic,” began ramping up his physical activity four days ago.
“The pain is there, but I’ve gotten a lot of strength back,” Weight said. “I just have to be patient and work through it.”
Weight said he’s now feeling looser and regaining some strength. Although he has no concrete timetable, Weight hopes he can return to the ice and begin skating and playing with the team again soon.
His team is hoping the same.