SIDELINED since the end of December due to a bizarrely-sustained finger injury, it has understandably been a frustrating time for Sheffield Steelers’ centre John Armstrong.
After surgery, the initial prognosis put the 29-year-old Canadian’s time out at 12 weeks, ruling him out for the rest of the regular season - a cruel blow for the Steelers considering he had contributed 18 goals and 17 goals in 35 games.
Next week, Armstrong is scheduled to have an update meeting with the surgeon who repaired the damaged nerve and tendon he sustained during a fight with Nottingham Panthers’ Mathieu Brisebois.
In that meeting, Armstrong is hoping to be told he can return to action sooner, but the likelihood is that he will not be seen in a Steelers’ shirt again until the play-offs.
That alone, however, is enough to spur on Armstrong to be ready when the time comes, especially after the sweet memories of last April’s post-season campaign when he played a significant role in helping the Steelers seal a thrilling play-off final triumph against Cardiff Devils at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre.
“The 12 weeks is up before the play-offs, so I should be back for then,” said Armstrong, a round three pick for the Calgary Flames back in 2006.
“I’ll be speaking to the surgeon in a week or so and he will able to tell me whether I can come back any sooner or not. But, as it stands, it looks like the play-offs.
“Making the play-offs is what is driving me on. It was such a great feeling winning them last year and I want to do that again.”
Armstrong will be at Sheffield Arena tonight to watch his Steelers’ team-mates take on the Guildford Flames, before they head to Coventry Blaze 24 hours later. Like any player, though, he admits watching games he should be involved in is no easy thing.
“You can watch the first game or two because it feels like you’re having a break for one game or something,” added Armstrong. “But it is immensely frustrating because you just want to be out there. Games certainly seem a lot longer when you’re not involved.”
Armstrong picked up his injury after getting his finger caught up in his own jersey during what, for him, was a rare foray into a fight, something which only adds to his frustration, given the consequences.
“I keep asking myself ‘why did I have to do that?’ (get involved in a fight),” he said. “I don’t really fight much anymore, but I thought it was a cheap hit (on me), my nose was bleeding right after he hit me and so I wanted to retaliate. But, looking back, it was a bad idea.”
In the meantime, Armstrong is doing all he can to keep in shape, ready for the moment when he steps back on to the ice for his first shift in three months. He is being aided in his fitness programme by Steelers’ conditioning coach, Danny Mawer, who can sometimes prove a tough trainer.
“I’m making sure I stay in shape and keep my cardio up,” added Armstrong. “Danny is making up workouts for me all of the time. He had me running every stair in our building the other day with a 45lb vest on - I think he’s just enjoying beating me up a bit.”