Jake DeBrusk rode the high from his triumphant Winter Classic performance at Fenway Park.
Frankly, he had to in his initial recovery process from a fractured fibula and hand injury.
“I tried to milk that as long as possible, like for a week or two,” DeBrusk recalled. “So it’s trying to relive that for as much as I could.”
As he skated through excruciating pain in his hand and foot, DeBrusk’s persevered to notch the tying and go-ahead markers to cap off the Bruins’ thrilling come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
DeBrusk encountered his hand ailment earlier in Boston’s 2-1 victory. His adrenaline was already at peak levels as he discussed the extent of his pain with the training staff.
“The hand [injury] was pretty early on, so I knew something was wrong,” DeBrusk said. “Adrenaline was kind of up, and they were like, ‘yeah, we’ll take a look at it,’ so we did some stuff.”
That adrenaline took once DeBrusk injured his leg on a Matt Grzelcyk shot attempt moments before he notched the first of his two tallies. But he wasn’t about to hit the exit on the league’s marquee regular season stage.
“It literally happened eight seconds before the tying goal,” head coach Jim Montgomery recalled on DeBrusk’s leg injury. “And then the adrenaline literally goes in…”
“With the leg, it was right before I scored. So I came to the bench, and everyone was all patting me and stuff…and I was like, ‘yeah, I did something with my leg, I didn’t know exactly.’ But he was like, ‘step on it,'” DeBrusk said of his initial conversations with the training staff following his third-period power-play equalizer. “Usually, when you take a shot block, it’s a stinger we call it in hockey terms, and we were hoping it was that. But it started to deteriorate a little bit, and I didn’t say anything after that.”
He didn’t have to. Instead, DeBrusk let his play speak for itself.
The 2015 first-round selection saved one more triumphant moment in the closing seconds, blocking Evgeni Malkin’s bid for the equalizer. After the buzzer, the Penguins found the back of the net on their ensuing secondary chance.
A sprawled DeBrusk withered in pain, thinking the Pens had forced overtime. Instead, he hobbled back to his feet, joining his teammates for the postgame celebration in front of the 39,243 capacity crowd dressed in black and gold.
“At that point, I just sprawled out. I didn’t even know [that we won]. The damage was done at that time,” DeBrusk said. “I was also devastated because I thought they tied the game. So I was like, ‘I can’t get up; this is brutal.’ Then I saw everyone come in [to celebrate], so it was mixed emotions at the time.”
The image of DeBrusk hobbling into the Bruins’ designated home clubhouse from ‘Behind the B’ illustrated his pain to a T.
A few weeks following that episode detailing the Bruins’ Winter Classic win, DeBrusk is on the cusp of returning to Boston’s lineup.
Ahead of the Bruins’ upcoming siblings’ trip, DeBrusk returned to full-contact practice on Monday. The 2015 first-round selection rotated shifts with Jakub Lauko and A.J. Greer on Boston’s fourth line during the roughly 45-minute on-ice session at Warrior Ice Arena.
Montgomery and the coaching staff remain cautious in getting DeBrusk up to speed. The first-year Bruins coach labeled DeBrusk as doubtful for Tuesday’s tilt in Dallas and probable for Thursday’s visit to Nashville.
The Bruins will likely keep the cautious approach with DeBrusk’s workload upon his impending return. But after over six weeks off, DeBrusk remains eager to deliver an encore following his Winter Classic heroics.
“When you really can’t move and stuff, it is mentally draining. But the training staff has done a good job here of being alive and well, and I’ve worked as hard as I can to get back,” DeBrusk said. “It’s been fun to watch this team over the last month, and it’s one of those things where you want to join it as fast as possible.”
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