Notebook - March 1, 2013

Friday, 01.03.2013 / 3:05 PM

BROSSARD – In today’s notebook: A step in the right direction for an injured teammate, Kaberle back in the mix, and Gorges on concussions.

Welcome back: After an extended absence that saw him miss the entirety of the 2012-13 season to date, Petteri Nokelainen’s back injury seems to finally be on the mend as he joined the team in Brossard for his first practice of the year on Friday morning.

“It’s obviously a big step for me and it’s been a long haul until now and getting back on the ice with my teammates is nice to do,” explained Nokelainen, who played his last game with the Habs on Mar. 31, 2012. While he’s certainly glad to be practicing, the center will likely have to wait a little while longer to jump back into an actual game setting. “It’s been hard this time because I didn’t have a timeline. I still don’t have a timeline. I’m full contact right now, but it’s still day to day. I’ve had a couple of setbacks already, so for myself, I’m mentally just trying to take things a day at time and see what comes out of it – but playing is still a little ways away for me.”

The Finnish center also took the opportunity to shed some light on the nature of his injury, which up until now was only known to Habs fans as an issue with his back.

“It was something that happened during the summertime while I was lifting weights,” said Nokelainen, “It’s not something that came out of nowhere – it just creeped up on me and really got to me eventually, so it wasn’t really just one thing.”

Nokelainen will continue to reintegrate himself he’ll join the team for their upcoming five-game jaunt across the Eastern United-States where he’ll carry on his rehab with the Habs’ strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard.

Patience and practice: It’s never easy to see a teammate fall to injury – especially one as likable as Habs blue-liner, Raphael Diaz. But injury is just another part of the game and with Diaz sidelined at the moment, veteran Tomas Kaberle will have the opportunity to jump back into action after being a healthy scratch for 25 days leading up to the team’s Wednesday night match-up in Toronto.

“It feels great to be back and it did me a lot of good to be able to step back onto the ice and play. You obviously never want to see a teammate get hurt, but with the kind of schedule we have this year, I knew I was going to have to be ready to play at any moment,” said the 34-year-old defenseman, who practiced in a pairing with P.K. Subban the day before the Habs’ Saturday night tilt against the Penguins. “We’re professionals at the end of the day and we get paid to do what we love. The focus is always on improving, and that should be the case whether you’re playing games or not. You just want to keep get better every day while you wait for a chance to get back into the lineup.”

Concussion discussion: After staying injury free for most of the first half of the season, the Habs have been forced to contend with a wave of concussions over the past weeks with both Rene Bourque and Raphael Diaz currently sidelined with symptoms.

“We play a physical sport,” underlined defenseman Josh Gorges, when questioned on eliminating the risk of concussions from the game. “You know, you can get hammered with the hardest check possible and walk away from it completely fine. Then, you can take a really light hit that just jars something in you in a certain way and suddenly, you have a concussion. It’s something you’re not always able to prevent and it will always happen to some degree no matter what we do. You can decrease the chances, but never eliminate the risk completely.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

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