After a collision with the Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu on March 29 of last season, Dennis Wideman needed several surgeries and over a week in the hospital that spring to keep from potentially losing his right leg. Hematoma and compartment syndrome knocked him out the final five games of the 2010-11 season and for both rounds of the Washington Capitals' playoff run.
But this season he's an All-Star, a journey that made him the Capitals' Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee as chosen by the Washington chapter of the Pro Hockey Writers Association. The trophy is awarded to the "player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Wideman, who shrugs off talk about his six operations and the entire painful process, said he was never worried over the summer about regaining his past form.
"It was obviously just a little slower process of getting the strength back into it. Other than that, everything was pretty much the same," Wideman said. "I wasn't too worried about it, but I try not to look too far in the future with stuff like that and just go day-by-day and it makes things a whole lot easier."
Wideman, 28, is third on the team in points with 41 (10 goals and 31 assists) and made his first All-Star game appearance in January. The defenseman admits he didn't know what to expect from this season, but now he's regained 95 percent of his strength in his right leg.
"It was a pretty bad injury, but I don't feel like it was that big of a deal, I guess probably mainly because it happened more so at the end of the year," Wideman said.
Wideman said in a January interview that he staved off depression by thinking he'd be able to play in the playoffs.
"I think the whole time that I was hurt, I was in denial about how bad it was. I just thought I would be able to play if we kept going in the playoffs, I thought was going to be able to play," he said. "But looking back on it now, there was no way I was going to be able to play. That probably helped me in the rehab process that I had the delusion that I was actually going to be able to play. It made things easier, probably."