Tomas Fleischmann couldn’t stop smiling - skating around pylons, talking with teammates, even sprinting from blue line to blue line.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Fleischmann said, laughing. “I’m happy I’m on the ice with guys.”
It was a return to normalcy for the Washington Capitals forward. Fleischmann practiced with his teammates Tuesday morning for the first time this season. It’s not the end of his road back from a blood clot in his left leg, but it’s a major milestone.
“I feel really good on the ice today, so it’s a good sign,” he said. “I just felt like it’s a longer summer, that’s all. Now I feel like it’s my training camp starting.”
Fleischmann wound up with the blood clot, known as deep vein thrombosis, after blocking a shot in last year’s playoffs, and it was worsened by a flight home to the Czech Republic. His timetable to return hasn’t been determined, but coach Bruce Boudreau said a week to 10 days would be his best guess.
The forward took part in everything but five-on-five contact drills Tuesday, which he was held out of on orders from trainer Greg Smith.
“Tomas is still a ways away. He hasn’t had a scrimmage yet; he hasn’t even had a physical battle since last training camp,” Boudreau said. “It’s not like he skates with us once and he’s gonna play. This is a process of getting him in the best condition with the puck battling against guys and stuff like that.”
Getting back on the ice with the team is an important part of the process. Fleischmann had been skating by himself for almost two months while swimming and lifting weights to stay in shape and build strength. He said he has been pain-free and is working with a group of doctors to adjust his dosage of blood thinners as he inches closer to playing his first game since May 13.
“It was my first practice, and I didn’t want to push it too hard in a contact scrimmage like that,” he said. “We got a couple more days to work on, so next day I might be better.”
Fleischmann offers a scoring presence and is a player who can adapt to multiple situations. He had 19 goals and 18 assists in 73 games last year - a breakout season for a guy who entered 2008-09 with 40 points in 118 games.
“He’s a skilled player that kills penalties, that you can put into situations that he can be offensive and defensive,” Boudreau said. “He’s a very responsible player. He’s a solid NHL guy. You miss him.”
Boudreau said he hadn’t made any decisions about where Fleischmann will play when he returns. Second-liner Brooks Laich said he isn’t worried about how it will affect him.
“My game doesn’t change when I come to the rink. I know how I play; Bruce knows how I play,” Laich said. “I’ve been through this my whole time in Washington, not having a set position. It’s kind of the status quo. Chaos is the status quo.”
For now, a state of flux is the status quo for Fleischmann. And though he’s no cinch to be in the lineup anytime soon, his presence in the locker room was a welcome sight.
“You never see Flash in a bad mood. He’s kind of an undercover joker like Brian Pothier,” Laich said. “He’s got a look like something’s going on like you don’t know what’s going on.”