WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The crippling sensation Boston Bruins forward Chris Kelly felt when his back locked up on him on April 8 forced him to miss the remaining four games of the regular season and both rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Prior to the injury, he had started to feel something different in his right glutes, but he thought it was due more to fatigue than anything else, after the team played 16 games in March following the Olympic break.
At the time his back seized up, Kelly felt he was skating well, but the injury had done its damage. Even though he attempted to come back, the pain was too much and he missed the rest of the season before having back surgery in May to repair a herniated disk.
He spent the next six weeks not able to do anything physical, but said he felt "really good" after the procedure.
"Normally, when you have surgery they want you to start working out right away, or start doing something," explained Kelly. "With this particular injury, they said, 'You're going to start feeling better right away, and if you try to do something you could reaggravate it, or rehurt it.' So for six weeks I didn't do anything. That was difficult. That was the hardest part of the summer, was going home and not being able to do anything."
That included not being able to pick up his two young children.
"I was kind of a skinny fat guy," Kelly said with a laugh.
In mid-July, he started skating on his own, but at a slow pace.
"Getting back on the ice was a big step," he said. "I skated more this summer than I have in, I can't remember how long. I only played 55 games, so I was excited to get back on the ice."
At the beginning of August, Kelly said he was able to get into more of a normal offseason routine. He's been participating in the Bruins' captain's practices with some of his teammates and other local NHLers and believes he's ready for training camp, including contact drills.
When camp opens Sept. 18, Kelly doesn't know where he'll be playing in the lineup. Barring any trades or injuries, the Bruins' roster is pretty much set for the season, with only two forward positions up for grabs. Boston's assistant captain said he'd play any position on any line.
"It doesn't matter where I play," Kelly said. "I've played every position before, so it doesn't matter. Wherever I'm needed, or fit in, whatever helps. I'm sure every guy in the room would say the same thing -- I hope so."
The other issue is the team's salary cap. The Bruins have little wiggle room, and general manager Peter Chiarelli could decide to shed some salary via the trade market. Boston has plenty of depth on defense, and the team is hoping some of its forward prospects are ready to make an impact, too.
Kelly has two years remaining on his contract, earning $3 million per season. He has a no-trade clause with a list of eight undisclosed teams on it. But right now, the only thing he's focused on is training camp and the upcoming season.
"Those things are out of my control. That's not a hockey player's issue; that's management's issue. They do a great job with that, so hopefully that will continue," Kelly said.
"Every year is the same. You come in, be a player and don't try to be anything else than that. There's always speculation. There's been speculation my entire career. You go crazy worrying about those things. There are more important things to worry about."