Derek Roy entered the interview room at HSBC Arena on Monday morning walking slowly. Very slowly. His injured left leg was braced and he used a cane to balance himself while he stood and talked.
It's been 19 days since the Buffalo Sabres' leading scorer suffered his season-ending knee injury when he was crunched into the boards by Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Thirteen days since Roy had surgery on the knee. What looked like the best season of his career was cut short in an instant, and Roy is still trying to accept that fact.
"You spend all summer getting ready for the season and 35 games into the season, you're out for the rest of it," Roy said in his first public comments since the injury. "It's definitely tough. A little fluky injury flying into the boards like that. You run in the boards a lot and nothing happens and all of a sudden that one time and you're out for the season.
"It's definitely tough. I was going at a good pace and feeling good about myself and my game."
Roy will be out for the seventh straight game tonight when the Sabres host the Philadelphia Flyers in the arena. Oddly enough, Buffalo is 4-1-1 in his absence. Filling the void of a No. 1 center who was averaging a point a game looked to be insurmountable, but the best hockey of the season from the likes of Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht is helping to keep the Sabres afloat for now.
Roy, for his part, refused to completely rule himself out for the season. The timeline remains four to six months, but Roy said he's hoping to fast-track himself, and four months would be around the second round of the playoffs.
The Sabres, of course, have a long way to go to even get to that point. They enter tonight's game 10th in the Eastern Conference and eight points out of the final playoff spot. But they're playing well and have another chance tonight to post their first three-game winning streak of the year.
"It's the toughest time for sure watching the guys play, wanting to be there and be in the battle," Roy said. "It's a really tough feeling especially at this time. I can help the team out in areas. They're doing really well and I wish them the best of luck and I'll be here supporting them for sure."
Roy had 10 goals, 25 assists and 35 points when he was injured. At the time the 25 assists were fourth in the NHL among centers, behind only the star-studded trio of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Detroit's Pavel Datysuk and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin.
The loss of Roy was a stunner for the Sabres. He's averaged 28 goals and 73 points the last three seasons and has been extremely durable, missing only six games in that span.
After taking the tough but clean hit from Kulikov, Roy was able to get up and limp to the bench. He said he did not initially realize the severity of the injury.
"I felt the sharp pain and kind of started skating around and then I'm like, 'I might want to get off the ice right now,' " he said. "Once I started walking on it, that's a little pressure putting pressure on it. I came to the room and they couldn't really figure out what's going on. Then they spotted the tendon was gone and that's when we went for the MRI the next day and found out that it was a partially torn tendon.
"It's a tough injury. It doesn't happen in hockey much. Usually guys get MCL or ACL [tears]. The doctors said everything went great in surgery, that it was a fast, easy thing. It was great to hear that."
Roy has had limited mobility in the leg since the surgery but said he's embarking on light exercise movements to prepare himself for the rigorous rehabilitation process.
"I feel pretty good. I got to bend it today," he said. "I haven't got to bend my leg in three weeks. It's a good feeling. It was a great feeling to be around the guys. I was kind of nervous coming down to the rink today.
"I've never dealt with anything like this and they said it's going to get harder and harder and I'm ready for it. I've got all the guys behind me so it's going to be an experience."