At the end of practice today, Alexei Ponikarovksy and Willie Mitchell came onto the ice for some skating drills. It was the third day on the ice for each player. After his doctor appointment yesterday, Ponikarovksy was cleared to start handling and passing the puck. On Monday, Mitchell will go for a similar evaluation. Based on initial estimates, Ponikarovsky might be ready for a return in about a week, while Mitchell might be another week behind him. I sat down with Mitchell today as he was discussing, with Ponikarovsky, the finer points of their workout. “You know we’re spending too much time together when we’re arguing over our skating drills,” Mitchell joked.

Question: How is the rehab work going so far?

MITCHELL: “We do a lot of off-ice stuff every day. Real hard, actually. We’ve been lunging up a storm. The other guys on the team are laughing at us. We do 800 lunges a day, and I’m not kidding. Since we’ve been injured, we’ve had three days off. So we’ve been going hard. I felt good on the ice, though. Not bad, considering. The hardest part is trying to get the skates tight, because with my wrist, I can’t really tie my skates, but it’s nice to mix it up and get on the ice, because of the monotony of what we’ve been doing every day.

“We all need a change, just physically and emotionally. When you do the same thing every day, it gets redundant and you don’t get motivated and you don’t feel like there’s a carrot at the end of the tunnel. Poni is a little closer than me, obviously, but it’s nice for me to get on the ice and feel like it’s coming and it’s getting closer. Obviously it’s tough right now, with how the team is doing since we’ve been out, and obviously we feel like we want to come back and help out the team a little bit.”

Question: And you might be able to take another step forward on Monday…

MITCHELL: “Yeah. If Monday goes well, then I can start to test it a little more. I can take (the soft cast) off now, which is nice. I just have to be kind of careful, when opening and closing doors, making sure I don’t jam it and stuff like that. But in the day-to-day stuff, I can actually eat my dinner, and not with this cast on. So it is getting better, and that’s No. 1, the fact that it’s getting better. You don’t want to go three weeks and still have it feel the same way. That’s when you would have to reassess things, but it’s getting better, so that’s great.”

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