Keller should be ready for the Coyotes’ opener

HENDERSON, Nev. – Clayton Keller expects to be ready for the Arizona Coyotes’ season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 13. However, he does not know if he will be present on the first day of training camp, September 22.

The striker is recovering from a broken leg.

 » We will see. That’s the goal right now, » Keller said during the NHL Players’ Media Tour of North America at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, outside Las Vegas, on Friday. « I think the most important thing is that I’m ready for the first game of the season. »

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It’s been a long road for the 24-year-old since being injured when he crashed hard against the boards during the third period of a game against the San Jose Sharks on March 30.

Keller had surgery that night, and the Coyotes estimated he would need 4-6 months to recover.

« It was just an unlucky accident, » Keller said. Normally, you are able to control your fall, but I was going so fast that I hit the boards without having had time to turn. I knew something was wrong when I realized I couldn’t move my leg while lying on the ice. »

The incident prematurely ended the season for Keller, who led the Coyotes with a career-high 28 goals and 63 points – two shy of his career-high 65 points as a rookie in 2017-18.

« It was definitely a little disappointing, » admitted Keller. I was on my way to having my best season, but I’m even more motivated to get healthy and do even better this year. »

The hardest part according to the striker was ‘being patient’. He had to walk on crutches for about six weeks and limped for three months.

« You have to learn to stop limping, » Keller said. It wasn’t too painful after the first three weeks, and then it was fine. It was just hard to get there, but every week I felt like I was making progress, my leg was getting stronger and stronger. The most important thing is to regain this physical strength. »

Video: ARI@MTL: Keller scores in AN from the top of the circle

Keller spent the summer in Arizona to complete his rehabilitation. He was given the green light to put on the skates three and a half months after fracturing his leg.

« It was a great day, » Keller said. I still felt funny sensations, but once on the ice, it got better every day. It was especially good mentally to finally be able to return to the ice. […] I skated a lot since then, twice a week at first, then four times a week. Lately, I’ve been jumping on the ice almost every day. »

Keller said he’s been cleared by doctors, but the Coyotes plan to be cautious with his return. This explains why he could be absent at the start of training camp. It may even be that he does not play any preparatory match.

« I probably won’t play preseason games, » said Keller, who will be entering his seventh NHL season. Maybe one of the last two games, if I’m ready to jump in. »

Preseason games or not, Keller is confident he’ll be on the roster for the regular season opener.

« I think everything is going to be okay, » he said. I’ve been working all summer aiming to be back for this game and I’m going to be ready. I’m going to approach it like any other game and have fun. »

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