NHL players often compete with high levels of pain, but getting sick is another matter: 'It's the whole body'

Jimmy Greenfield, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The illness that drained Olli Maatta of his energy has finally subsided and he is expected to be in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Coyotes after a four-game absence.

The timing couldn't be better.

Duncan Keith is out indefinitely with a groin injury and Calvin de Haan is beginning what the Blackhawks believe will be a lengthy stay on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury he suffered Tuesday against the Golden Knights.

It's one thing to deal with missing teeth or a torn muscle. Those are more readily defined ailments, based on pain tolerance, that players have a better understanding of how to fight through.

But when athletes who are in peak physical condition are felled by illness?

That's a bit harder to come to grips with. And it's difficult to know when the body will feel capable of playing hockey for nearly three hours.


"When I got it, I thought I could play the next game right away and it kept getting worse and worse," Maatta said. "After a couple of days of practice I feel like I'm finally back in game shape."

Maatta first started to feel like something was wrong before last week's two-game trip to play the Bruins and Devils. He ended up missing both games despite being on the trip, then also sat out a home game against the Coyotes and the first game of the current trip, Tuesday against the Golden Knights.

Last season, Erik Gustafsson got sick while the team was in Winnipeg and ended up missing that game against the Jets and the following game at the United Center against the Penguins.

Every NHL player deals with aches and pains from a long season, but those rarely cause them to miss games. Dealing with the loss of energy is much worse because it's well, everywhere.


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