Steve Ott ready to go for the St. Louis Blues after overcoming torn hamstring, colitis diagnosis

They kept showing the replay. Over and over. Slowed down to really capture just how unnatural a position St. Louis Blues forward Steve Ott found himself in when his skate got caught on Dion Phaneuf's skate, and he went crashing into the boards.

Erica Ott knew it was bad immediately. She's been through a ton of injuries with her husband -- ankle surgeries, hand surgeries, three sports hernias, two shoulder surgeries. Never did she see him react the way he did after this fluke collision while playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His leg stretched into the splits in a way not even the most flexible goalie could withstand. And it was the way Ott left the ice that sent Erica to her phone in a panic to text Blues trainer Ray Barile.

Ott crawled off. Pushing his stick on the ice in front of him, he crawled back to the bench.

They showed the replay on the Jumbotron above the ice at Scottrade Center. When she rushed down to the wives' room near the dressing room, the television seemed to be on loop with the excruciating injury.

When the period ended, Ott stayed on the bench. He couldn't move. A security guard and a trainer had to transport him down the tunnel. They would go a foot and stop. Ott would look up into the air, in anguish before moving again.

He warned those helping him that the pain was so severe, he felt like he was going to throw up.

"It was completely heartbreaking," said Erica Ott during a phone conversation this week. "This pain he's in, he couldn't even talk. It took your breath away how much pain he was in."

That was in early December.

The ultimate diagnosis confirmed what Ott, 33, knew the minute the injury struck: He had ripped his hamstring right off the bone.

Sitting in the Blues dressing room a few days ago, Ott twists his body around to show exactly where on the back of his leg he destroyed his hamstring.

"They had to cut me under my butt. They cut me here," Ott said, pointing. "When the doctor opened me up, he said it was wiggling at him. They had to pull it up and re-anchor with the two or three anchors in there... . It takes about eight weeks for your tendon to reattach and be strong where you can push it now."

Eight weeks. Eight miserable weeks. Six weeks on crutches and then a slow transition back into shuffling around the room. Then finding his gait.

And this stretch of healing might best exemplify what the players mean when they say this is the tightest Blues team in years. In the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks, captain David Backes said the closeness manifested itself on the ice when things went sideways. There was no finger pointing. No sniping back and forth. Just a team that's been through a lot together, digging a little deeper.

That was on display for all to see. But what happened with Ott behind the scenes showed the tightness these Blues players sincerely seem to have off the ice.

Sometimes when players get hurt, they just disappear. You never hear from them and a feeling of isolation sets in. The Blues players wouldn't let that happen with Ott.

It started with Ryan Reaves, who basically carried Ott to the car on the night of his injury. That was after he helped him get ready to go.

"I had to help him get dressed. I had to help him towel off a bit," Reaves said. "It was getting a little close and personal. He's a good buddy."

Then came the visits. Sometimes they came as a group, sometimes as individuals. But while Ott was laid up on the couch, a steady stream of teammates made sure he was OK. As painful as the injury was, watching the Blues play on television without him might have been even harder.

The visits from teammates helped more than the guys probably even realize.

"I've never even told that to anybody," Ott said. "That's what type of guys we have here."

They brought gifts. Paul Stastny contributed his favorite Oreo cookies. There were magazines, games, chocolate, a blanket. "With him, that's something he'd do for us," Stastny said, crediting his wife for putting together a care package. "He was always optimistic, saying, 'I'll be ready for the playoffs.'"

The original timeline for Ott didn't include a return for the start of the playoffs. Initially the team thought they might have to win a round or two in order to get him back this season.

But once he was able to start training and the hamstring was strong enough to hit the gym, Ott did it like he does everything else. He hit it hard.

Blues forward Jaden Schwartz was also recovering from an injury, so he spent a lot of time with Ott during this stretch and saw someone pushing hard to get back out there.

"It was a lot of work," Schwartz said. "It started in the gym, it started with getting the mobility back and strength back. It was a step-by-step process. He did a great job."

Then, right when it looked like he might be getting back out there, a setback. On April 6, five months after the hamstring injury occurred, the Blues announced Ott would miss at least two weeks with colitis, an inflammation of the inner colon. "Basically, my guts were exploding on me," Ott said.

With meds and another few rounds of bone marrow broth from Erica, Ott was cleared up earlier than expected and finally returned to the ice for Game 3 of the first round against the Blackhawks.

On April 17, he played in his first game since Dec. 5. The playoffs are an emotional time but as the United Center crowd cheered their way through the anthem -- the moment, the recovery, the steps he took to get there, hit Ott hard.

He just wanted to be available for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, and here he was back with his teammates trying to knock off the defending champs.

"The anthem got me," Ott said. "To be an option again, to sit on that bench in Game 3 kind of gave me the ol' watery eyes."

The message from Hitchcock was simple. Give us everything you've got for as long as you can do it. Six games into Ott's return, Hitchcock saw him hit a wall. It was completely expected when coming back from nearly five months of inaction.

"You can only play on emotion so long in this business," Hitchcock said.

After playing in the first game of this second-round series, Ott has watched the rest. He's ready to go when needed. Erica Ott describes him as a caged animal.

"He's ready to rock," she said.

And if Hitchcock calls his number again, the Dallas Stars know as well as any franchise what they'd be getting when Ott jumps on the ice. He played nine years for the Stars.

Opposing players all seem to have their own Steve Ott story, and few can top the one by Stars defenseman Jason Demers. After Ott hit him from behind in a game five years ago, Demers went to challenge him and Ott caught him with a shot that knocked a tooth out. Pretty typical Ott exchange at this point.

Demers then dropped his gloves and started throwing punches. But instead of landing his best shot on Ott, he landed it on linesman Brian Mach.

"It didn't look great, I hit him full-fledge and he was still standing," Demers said. "Luckily I don't punch hard, so he was fine."

It just goes to show how disruptive Ott can be when he's on his game.

"You have to learn to leave him be and turn it into white noise," Demers said. "He's good at what he does."

On Friday, Hitchcock hinted at using his depth during a stretch in which the Blues could play three games in five days. On Saturday, that fresh depth player was Dmitrij Jaskin, who scored the Blues' second goal.

If it's Ott's turn in the lineup in Game 6 -- puckdrop is Monday at 8 ET -- he's ready. He's an option for Hitchcock.

Through all the recovery, that's all he ever wanted to be.