Frank Vatrano on verge of early Christmas present
BRIGHTON — Having encountered physical and mental hurdles during his road to recovering from a foot injury sustained during an off-ice session at training camp, an early Christmas present couldn’t come soon enough for Frank Vatrano.
Instead of having his stocking filled with pucks from games he scored in, Vatrano instead went through a period of rehab, skating and conditioning. After enduring that process, the former UMass-Amherst standout and native of East Longmeadow finally got his first chance to step into game action since representing Team USA at the IIHF World Championships in May when he was sent down to Providence for his first two games of the season this past Friday and Sunday.
“I think I felt good,” Vatrano said about his conditioning stint following Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “I think I got better as the game went on [Friday] and obviously they gave me the day off on Saturday to get my legs out from underneath me and Sunday I felt really good. I felt I had my pace up and my battle level was really good and I thought I was good in all three areas of the ice, so I think I’m ready to play. Whether I’m in tomorrow [vs. the Islanders] or not, I think I’m ready.”
Surely it took Vatrano a little while to shake off some rust and get physically engaged at the AHL level, and the process to full strength will come with time when he returns to NHL action.
Vatrano’s production, however, can’t be argued as he notched a pair of goals in as many games with the P-Bruins before getting called back up to Boston just in time for the holiday roster freeze on Monday night.
“The things you can’t really work on in practice like taking contact and getting hit. That was obviously something that was eye-opening right away, especially playing in the minors,” Vatrano said about the challenges upon returning to game action for the first time in seven months. “First shift I got hit pretty hard, so after that I think I got my legs from underneath me and got used to taking contact. I think that was pretty much the biggest thing, trying to get the timing down and all that stuff. Going into battles when you shouldn’t and picking up pucks when you should, I think those are things that will come naturally.”
“He went down to Providence and scored a few more goals and he seems to do that every game that he’s down there,” David Backes added about Vatrano, who is averaging exactly one goal per game in 38 career contests at the AHL level. “We’ll hopefully get that trend going with the big club here.”
During Monday’s practice, Vatrano rotated in with Anton Blidh on the fourth line alongside Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes – the lone goal scorer in the B’s 1-0 win over the Kings on Sunday. Though he won’t tip his cap to whether or not Vatrano will make his season debut, the 22-year-old will be an option for Claude Julien and his coaching staff as they look to find more offense from their team that is ranked 24th in goals for with 78.
“I want to help the team whether it’s [by] scoring goals or something else,” said Vatrano, who tallied eight goals in 39 games during his first season with Boston a year ago, “that’s something that I do very well [scoring goals], and hopefully I can bring that to the team whenever I’m in the lineup.”