Darryl Sutter has been one to compare his players to horses. Matt Frattin, in 2013, was a “racehorse.” Dustin Penner, one season later, wasn’t quite as good in the “seven furlong stuff” as he was in the “six furlong stuff.” Such equine tendencies could have transferred over to Brayden McNabb, the defenseman who suffered a broken collarbone on October 29 was anywhere between “getting a little restless” and rearing at the gate, if you spoke to him, ready and willing to be reinserted in the lineup.
“Yeah, in my eyes I was ready to go,” he said. “I think that’s anyone from injury, you just want to get back soon, sooner than later. I was definitely happy to get back out there and be with the teammates again.”
McNabb was activated and returned two months to the day Colton Parayko fell on him after a zone entry and collision in the St. Louis zone on October 29. Once cleared to return to the ice, he continued to learn from former Olympic speedskater David Cruikshank, who worked with the defenseman over the summer and was hired by the club to continue his skill development in the regular season. After skating on his own through mid-December, he joined the team in Detroit on the first leg of the nine consecutive road games, and by the time he practiced with the full team in Pittsburgh it was clear that he was on the verge of a return, one that may have been pushed back by a game because of the recovery time afforded by the Christmas break.
In returning to the lineup, he logged 17:02 of ice time in the 3-1 loss to Edmonton, totaling two shots on goal, two hits and one blocked shot. There wasn’t much hesitation jumping back into the more rugged aspects of the game in which he often appears comfortable.
“Physically it’s fine, it’s 100%, you know,” he said. “I don’t feel it and all that stuff. That way you have confidence about it, it’s good and have your thuds and getting up to speed with my game and get back on track.”
In his return, the left-handed D-man was paired alongside fellow lefty Kevin Gravel, who hopped back over to the right side, which he had played when paired with Derek Forbort last season in Ontario. Matt Greene, Tom Gilbert and Andy Andreoff were the scratches as part of a split that includes eight defensemen on the roster, which was referenced by Sutter as “a good number for me.”
He’ll continue to play while carrying the screws and fixtures used to reattach his collarbone, as inserted during November 2 surgery.
“Oh yeah, it’s mine to keep,” he said.
McNabb has been effective in his limited time this season and ranks fourth in the league with a Corsi-for rate of 60.8% through nine games. He has two goals, a plus-3 rating, eight shots on goal and 11 penalty minutes while averaging 19:53 of ice time.