Kevyn Adams is hopeful he can return to the Carolina Hurricanes for their New Year's Eve game. That would be symbolic for a proud competitor who yearns for the dawn of a new time and a return to the way things used to be.
The blue-collar center from Clarence has endured a tumultuous season after helping the Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup last spring.
He broke his right wrist while blocking a shot in Game Seven of the finals, but offseason surgery wasn't successful. He was involved in a fistfight with teammate Bret Hedican during practice drills. Coach Peter Laviolette took Adams off the penalty kill, which would be like asking Jerry Seinfeld to stop telling jokes.
"It's been an interesting year," said Adams, wearing a gray suit in the HSBC Arena pressbox while the Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres were taking pregame warm-ups before Thursday night's game. He underwent wrist surgery Dec. 20 to remove a painful bone chip, but is almost ready to play again.
"I guess I don't know, but when I come back I'm hoping I go back to the things I've always done and filling my role and playing as I've done in the past. Those are my expectations. If not, then I guess you just have to deal with that."
Adams has been the subject of trade rumors. He's 32 and scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He is making $725,000 this season.
He became an alternate captain in Carolina because he does all the little things. He hits. He blocks shots. He's effective on faceoffs. He kills penalties.
But his ice time became virtually non-existent some nights. He averages 8:38, but it was common to see him clock in around three minutes. On Dec. 16, he logged just 1:51.
"I don't feel comfortable saying that the reason my minutes aren't where they were in the past was because of my wrist . . . I've battled through it. But I just think it's the way the game has gone this year and my coach's decision," Adams said.
"For any player, you want to come to the rink and feel that you're being used to the best of your abilities with what you bring to the table. The way it's gone this year, it's just a situation where, for whatever reason, I'm not in the same situations I've been in the past."
Adams refused to speak impolitely of Laviolette, instead explaining he needed to do whatever he could to improve his own lot.
Since Adams has been out, winger Cory Stillman has joined defenseman Glen Wesley as alternate captains. Adams said he assumed he would wear the "A" again when he got back, but the team has been playing well, going on a five-game win streak without him.
"I take a lot of pride about being a captain here," Adams said. "I'd like to think they appreciate what I do as a leader. That would be a tough thing [if the 'A' were removed permanently] because any time you get in a position where you're given responsibility, I do. I've worked hard in my career to be put in a position to be rewarded in that way."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said concussed center Tim Connolly's comeback is slowly, steadily moving forward. Ruff reported Connolly even took a brief skate before Christmas.
"Tim is progressing," Ruff said. "He's riding the bike. His workload is gradually going up. He feels better. He's been around the rink. He still has some minor headaches, but stuff they feel is normal right now.
"It looks like he's getting better and maybe he'll come back and play."
Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin apparently doesn't think his feud with Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere is over. Ovechkin indicated to Capitals reporters the rift is merely on hold until March 21 in HSBC Arena.
Ovechkin became a local pariah for running Briere on Dec. 2. Briere speared Ovechkin in the privates in Tuesday's rematch.
"I hit him; he hit me," Ovechkin was quoted as saying in the Washington Post. "We are even now, but we have two games more. After [the spear] I went to him and I said, 'Let's fight if you want.' "